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Genes Dev. 2002 Jul 15;16(14):1766-78.

Fission yeast CENP-B homologs nucleate centromeric heterochromatin by promoting heterochromatin-specific histone tail modifications.

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  • 1Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Heterochromatin is a functionally important chromosomal component, especially at centromeres. In fission yeast, conserved heterochromatin-specific modifications of the histone H3 tail, involving deacetylation of Lys 9 and Lys 14 and subsequent methylation of Lys 9, promote the recruitment of a heterochromatin protein, Swi6, a homolog of the Drosophila heterochromatin protein 1. However, the primary determinants of the positioning of heterochromatin are still unclear. The fission yeast proteins Abp1, Cbh1, and Cbh2 are homologs of the human protein CENP-B that bind to centromeric alpha-satellite DNA and associate with centromeric heterochromatin. We show that the CENP-B homologs are functionally redundant at centromeres, and that Abp1 binds specifically to centromeric heterochromatin. In the absence of Abp1 or Cbh1, the centromeric association of Swi6 is diminished, resulting in a decrease in silencing of the region. CENP-B-homolog double disruptants show a synergistic reduction of Swi6 at centromeric heterochromatin, indicating that the three proteins are functionally redundant in the recruitment of Swi6. Furthermore, using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we show that disruption of CENP-B homologs causes a decrease in heterochromatin-specific modifications of histone H3. These results indicate that the CENP-B homologs act as site-specific nucleation factors for the formation of centromeric heterochromatin by heterochromatin-specific modifications of histone tails.

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