The mechanical environment of a cell can have many effects, but whether it impacts the DNA sequence of a cell has remained unexamined. To investigate this, we developed a live-cell method to measure changes in chromosome numbers. We edited constitutive genes with GFP or RFP tags on single alleles and discovered that cells that lose Chromosome reporters (ChReporters) become non-fluorescent. We applied our new tools to confined mitosis and to inhibition of the putative tumor suppressor myosin-II. We quantified compression of mitotic chromatin in vivo and demonstrated that similar compression in vitro resulted in cell death, but also rare and heritable ChReptorter loss. Myosin-II suppression rescued lethal multipolar divisions and maximized ChReporter loss during three-dimensional (3D) compression and two-dimensional (2D) lateral confinement, but not in standard 2D culture. ChReporter loss was associated with chromosome mis-segregation, rather than just the number of divisions, and loss in vitro and in mice was selected against in subsequent 2D cultures. Inhibition of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) caused ChReporter loss in 2D culture, as expected, but not during 3D compression, suggesting a SAC perturbation. Thus, ChReporters enable diverse studies of viable genetic changes, and show that confinement and myosin-II affect DNA sequence and mechano-evolution.

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