Arrested development: When cells make mistakes

The teacher resource is a guide for educators that contains: 

  • a general overview of how to use annotated papers in the classroom

  • an overview of the topics and research covered in the article

  • discussion questions for student engagement

  • links to related multimedia resources from HHMI|BioInteractive 

We highly recommend HHMI's 2013 Holiday Lectures on Science "Medicine in the Genomic Era" as supplement to the annotated research article. In this lecture series, leading medical researchers explain how advances in genomics are revolutionizing their work, leading to a better understanding of disease and to improved treatments.

Suggested Discussion Questions

  1. In Figure 5, panels A and B show cells with defective p21 going through mitosis in the absence (A) or presence (B) of DNA damage. What would you expect these two panels to look like if normal cells were used instead?
  2. Vincristine is a drug used in chemotherapy to treat cancer. It functions similarly to nocodazole. Why do you think this could be an effective cancer treatment? Check the annotations to remind yourself what nocodazole does.
  3. Many of our genes have important functions in different signaling pathways. In the cell cycle, for example, some genes drive the cell cycle forward (called oncogenes), whereas others slow it down (called tumor suppressors). The two forces keep each other in check. Now, imagine a cell divides in the presence of DNA damage and the chromosomes don't separate properly, leaving the daughter cells with unequal amounts of DNA. Why is it problematic for a daughter cell to receive extra copies (or no copies) of a single chromosome?
  4. p53 is sometimes called "the guardian of the genome," and many cancer cells harbor mutations in this gene. Why do you think this is the case? You can also use this interactive to help you answer this question: (Click on "Cell Cycle Regulators" in the center and then click on the stop)