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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2002 Jun;14(3):279-85.

Centromeres and variant histones: what, where, when and why?

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Department of Microbiology and University of Virginia Cancer Center, Jordan Building, Room 7223, University of Virginia, 1300 Jefferson Park Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


The CENP-A histone H3-like variants are centromere-specific histones found in all eukaryotes examined to date, from budding yeast to man. New experiments using antibodies, green fluorescent protein fusions, and epitope tags show that CENP-A replaces the major histone H3 subunits in a specialized histone octamer and that it does so with histones H4, and probably H2A and H2B. One of the classic hallmarks of chromatin molecular biology is that nucleosomes are deposited on DNA during replication in S phase. However, dramatic new results in mammalian and Drosophila cells show that CENP-A deposition is uncoupled from the replication of centromere DNA. Furthermore, genetic and phenotypic knockout experiments over the past year have demonstrated that the deposition of CENP-A at newly duplicated sister centromeres is an early step in the biogenesis of new centromeres and is required for the recruitment of other proteins to the centromere and kinetochore. In organisms with complex regional or holocentric centromeres, centromere identity was thought to be defined by the epigenetic state of centromere chromatin. Now, new experiments solidify this model and show that the epigenetic state can be spread in cis experimentally, creating a neocentromere, in a mechanism reminiscent of chromatin transcriptional silencing. Finally, a new report provides a glimpse into the potential regulation of CENP-A through specific post-translational phosphorylation, suggesting a broad level of control through histone tail modifications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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