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Nat Cell Biol. 2009 Jul;11(7):896-902. doi: 10.1038/ncb1899. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Centromere assembly requires the direct recognition of CENP-A nucleosomes by CENP-N.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Beckman Center, Palo Alto, CA 94503-5307, USA.


Centromeres are specialized chromosomal domains that direct kinetochore assembly during mitosis. CENP-A (centromere protein A), a histone H3-variant present exclusively in centromeric nucleosomes, is thought to function as an epigenetic mark that specifies centromere identity. Here we identify the essential centromere protein CENP-N as the first protein to selectively bind CENP-A nucleosomes but not H3 nucleosomes. CENP-N bound CENP-A nucleosomes in a DNA sequence-independent manner, but did not bind soluble CENP-A-H4 tetramers. Mutations in CENP-N that reduced its affinity for CENP-A nucleosomes caused defects in CENP-N localization and had dominant effects on the recruitment of CENP-H, CENP-I and CENP-K to centromeres. Depletion of CENP-N using siRNA (short interfering RNA) led to similar centromere assembly defects and resulted in reduced assembly of nascent CENP-A into centromeric chromatin. These data suggest that CENP-N interprets the information encoded within CENP-A nucleosomes and recruits other proteins to centromeric chromatin that are required for centromere function and propagation.

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