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Within the pericentric regions of human chromosomes reside large arrays of tandemly repeated satellite sequences. Expression of the human pericentric satellite HSATII is prevented by extensive heterochromatin silencing in normal cells, yet in many cancer cells, HSATII RNA is aberrantly expressed and accumulates in large nuclear foci in cis. Expression and aggregation of HSATII RNA in cancer cells is concomitant with recruitment of key chromatin regulatory proteins including methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2). While HSATII expression has been observed in a wide variety of cancer cell lines and tissues, the effect of its expression is unknown. We tested the effect of stable expression of HSATII RNA within cells that do not normally express HSATII. Ectopic HSATII expression in HeLa and primary fibroblast cells leads to focal accumulation of HSATII RNA in cis and triggers the accumulation of MeCP2 onto nuclear HSATII RNA bodies. Further, long-term expression of HSATII RNA leads to cell division defects including lagging chromosomes, chromatin bridges, and other chromatin defects. Thus, expression of HSATII RNA in normal cells phenocopies its nuclear accumulation in cancer cells and allows for the characterization of the cellular events triggered by aberrant expression of pericentric satellite RNA.


Noncoding RNA, Pericentric heterochromatin, Chromatin instability, Cancer biology, Human

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.