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Funct Integr Genomics. 2009 Feb;9(1):7-13. doi: 10.1007/s10142-008-0104-9. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

A tale of two centromeres--diversity of structure but conservation of function in plants and animals.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. BirchlerJ@Missouri.edu


The structural and functional aspects of two specific centromeres, one drawn from the animal kingdom (Drosophila) and the other from the plant kingdom (maize), are compared. Both cases illustrate an epigenetic component to centromere specification. The observations of neocentromeres in Drosophila and inactive centromeres in maize constitute one line of evidence for this hypothesis. Another common feature is the divisibility of centromere function with reduced stability as the size decreases. The systems differ in that Drosophila has no common sequence repeat at all centromeres, whereas maize has a 150-bp unit present in tandem arrays together with a centromere-specific transposon, centromere retrotransposon maize, present at all primary constrictions. Aspects of centromere structure known only from one or the other system might be common to both, namely, the presence of centromere RNAs in the kinetochore as found in maize and the organization of the centromeric histone 3 in tetrameric nucleosomes.

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