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J Mol Biol. 2008 Nov 21;383(4):894-903. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.08.077. Epub 2008 Sep 5.

Architecture and flexibility of the yeast Ndc80 kinetochore complex.

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Life Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Kinetochores mediate microtubule-chromosome attachment and ensure accurate segregation of sister chromatids. The highly conserved Ndc80 kinetochore complex makes direct contacts with the microtubule and is essential for spindle checkpoint signaling. It contains a long coiled-coil region with globular domains at each end involved in kinetochore localization and microtubule binding, respectively. We have directly visualized the architecture of the yeast Ndc80 complex and found a dramatic kink within the 560-A coiled-coil rod located about 160 A from the larger globular head. Comparison of our electron microscopy images to the structure of the human Ndc80 complex allowed us to position the kink proximal to the microtubule-binding end and to define the conformational range of the complex. The position of the kink coincides with a coiled-coil breaking region conserved across eukaryotes. We hypothesize that the kink in Ndc80 is essential for correct kinetochore geometry and could be part of a tension-sensing mechanism at the kinetochore.

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