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Structural and functional dynamics of human centromeric chromatin.

Author information

1
Genome Technology Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Abstract

Centromeres are the elements of chromosomes that assemble the proteinaceous kinetochore, maintain sister chromatid cohesion, regulate chromosome attachment to the spindle, and direct chromosome movement during cell division. Although the functions of centromeres and the proteins that contribute to their complex structure and function are conserved in eukaryotes, centromeric DNA diverges rapidly. Human centromeres are particularly complicated. Here, we review studies on the organization of homogeneous arrays of chromosome-specific alpha-satellite repeats and evolutionary links among eukaryotic centromeric sequences. We also discuss epigenetic mechanisms of centromere identity that confer structural and functional features of the centromere through DNA-protein interactions and post-translational modifications, producing centromere-specific chromatin signatures. The assembly and organization of human centromeres, the contributions of satellite DNA to centromere identity and diversity, and the mechanism whereby centromeres are distinguished from the rest of the genome reflect ongoing puzzles in chromosome biology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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