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Chromosoma. 2001 Aug;110(4):253-66.

Alpha-satellite DNA of primates: old and new families.

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Mental Health Research Center, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow.


In this report we review alpha-satellite DNA (AS) sequence data to support the following proposed scenario of AS evolution. Centromeric regions of lower primate chromosomes have solely "old" AS based on type A monomeric units. Type A AS is efficiently homogenized throughout the whole genome and is nearly identical in all chromosomes. In the ancestors of great apes, a divergent variant of the type A monomer acquired the ability to bind CENP-B protein and expanded in the old arrays, mixing irregularly with type A. As a result, a new class of monomers, called type B, was formed. The "new" AS families were established by amplification of divergent segments of irregular A-B arrays and spread to many chromosomes before the human-chimpanzee-gorilla split. The new arrays contain regularly alternating monomers of types A and B. New AS is homogenized within an array with little or no homogenization between chromosomes. Most human chromosomes contain only one new array and one or a few old arrays. However, as a rule only new arrays are efficiently homogenized. Apparently, in evolution, after the establishment of the new arrays homogenization in the old arrays stopped. Notably, kinetochore structures marking functional centromeres are also usually formed on the new arrays. We propose that homogenization of AS may be limited to arrays participating in centromeric function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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