Cancer stem cell division: When the rules of asymmetry are broken

Subhas Mukherjee, Jun Kong, Daniel J. Brat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Asymmetric division of stem cells is a highly conserved and tightly regulated process by which a single stem cell produces two daughter cells and simultaneously directs the differential fate of both: one retains its stem cell identity while the other becomes specialized and loses stem cell properties. Coordinating these events requires control over numerous intra-and extracellular biological processes and signaling networks. In the initial stages, critical events include the compartmentalization of fate determining proteins within the mother cell and their subsequent passage to the appropriate daughter cell. Disturbance of these events results in an altered dynamic of self-renewing and differentiation within the cell population, which is highly relevant to the growth and progression of cancer. Other critical events include proper asymmetric spindle assembly, extrinsic regulation through micro-environmental cues, and noncanonical signaling networks that impact cell division and fate determination. In this review, we discuss mechanisms that maintain the delicate balance of asymmetric cell division in normal tissues and describe the current understanding how some of these mechanisms are deregulated in cancer. The universe is asymmetric and I am persuaded that life, as it is known to us, is a direct result of the asymmetry of the universe or of its indirect consequences. The universe is asymmetric.-Louis Pasteur

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-416
Number of pages12
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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