Once thought a mere ribosome factory, the nucleolus has been viewed in recent years as an extremely sensitive gauge of diverse cellular stresses. Emerging concepts in nucleolar biology include the nucleolar stress response (NSR), whereby a series of cell insults have a special impact on the nucleolus. These insults include, among others, ultra-violet radiation (UV), nutrient deprivation, hypoxia and thermal stress. While these stresses might influence nucleolar biology directly or indirectly, other perturbances whose origin resides in the nucleolar biology also trigger nucleolar and systemic stress responses. Among the latter, we find mutations in nucleolar and ribosomal proteins, ribosomal RNA (rRNA) processing inhibitors and ribosomal DNA (rDNA) transcription inhibition. The p53 protein also mediates NSR, leading ultimately to cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, senescence or differentiation. Hence, NSR is gaining importance in cancer biology. The nucleolar size and ribosome biogenesis, and how they connect with the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signalling pathway, are also becoming important in the biology of aging and cancer. Simple model organisms like the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
, easy to manipulate genetically, are useful in order to study nucleolar and rDNA structure and their relationship with stress. In this review, we summarize the most important findings related to this topic.
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