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Trends Biochem Sci. 2006 Dec;31(12):662-9. Epub 2006 Oct 30.

Centromeres put epigenetics in the driver's seat.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


A defining feature of chromosomes is the centromere, the site for spindle attachment at mitosis and meiosis. Intriguingly, centromeres of plants and animals are maintained by both sequence-specific and sequence-independent (epigenetic) processes. Epigenetic inheritance might enable kinetochores (the structures that attach centromeres to spindles) to maintain an optimal size. However, centromeres are susceptible to the evolution of "selfish" DNA repeats that bind to kinetochore proteins. We argue that such sequence-specific interactions are evolutionarily unstable because they enable repeat arrays to influence kinetochore size. Changes in kinetochore size could affect the interaction of kinetochores with the spindle and, in principle, skew Mendelian segregation. We propose that key kinetochore proteins have adapted to disrupt such sequence-specific interactions and restore epigenetic inheritance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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