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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 May;64(5):1440-4.

Transmission of a fully functional human neocentromere through three generations.

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CRC Chromosome Molecular Biology Group, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


An unusual Y chromosome with a primary constriction inside the long-arm heterochromatin was found in the amniocytes of a 38-year-old woman. The same Y chromosome was found in her husband and brother-in-law, thus proving that it was already present in the father. FISH with alphoid DNA showed hybridization signals at the usual position of the Y centromere but not at the primary constriction. Centromere proteins (CENP)-A, CENP-C, and CENP-E could not be detected at the site of the canonic centromere but were present at the new constriction, whereas CENP-B was not detected on this Y chromosome. Experiments with 82 Y-specific loci distributed throughout the chromosome confirmed that no gross deletion or rearrangement had taken place, and that the Y chromosome belonged to a haplogroup whose members have a mean alphoid array of 770 kb (range 430-1,600 kb), whereas that of this case was approximately 250 kb. Thus, this Y chromosome appeared to be deleted for part of the alphoid DNA. It seems likely that this deletion was responsible for the silencing of the normal centromere and that the activation of the neocentromere prevented the loss of this chromosome. Alternatively, neocentromere activation could have occurred first and stimulated inactivation of the normal centromere by partial deletion. Whatever the mechanism, the presence of this chromosome in three generations demonstrates that it functions sufficiently well in mitosis for male sex determination and fertility and that neocentromeres can be transmitted normally at meiosis.

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