Micronuclei research has regained its popularity due to the realization that genome chaos, a rapid and massive genome re-organization under stress, represents a major common mechanism for punctuated cancer evolution. The molecular link between micronuclei and chromothripsis (one subtype of genome chaos which has a selection advantage due to the limited local scales of chromosome re-organization), has recently become a hot topic, especially since the link between micronuclei and immune activation has been identified. Many diverse molecular mechanisms have been illustrated to explain the causative relationship between micronuclei and genome chaos. However, the newly revealed complexity also causes confusion regarding the common mechanisms of micronuclei and their impact on genomic systems. To make sense of these diverse and even conflicting observations, the genome theory is applied in order to explain a stress mediated common mechanism of the generation of micronuclei and their contribution to somatic evolution by altering the original set of information and system inheritance in which cellular selection functions. To achieve this goal, a history and a current new trend of micronuclei research is briefly reviewed, followed by a review of arising key issues essential in advancing the field, including the re-classification of micronuclei and how to unify diverse molecular characterizations. The mechanistic understanding of micronuclei and their biological function is re-examined based on the genome theory. Specifically, such analyses propose that micronuclei represent an effective way in changing the system inheritance by altering the coding of chromosomes, which belongs to the common evolutionary mechanism of cellular adaptation and its trade-off. Further studies of the role of micronuclei in disease need to be focused on the behavior of the adaptive system rather than specific molecular mechanisms that generate micronuclei. This new model can clarify issues important to stress induced micronuclei and genome instability, the formation and maintenance of genomic information, and cellular evolution essential in many common and complex diseases such as cancer.
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