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Cell. 2009 Sep 18;138(6):1067-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.08.036.

Major evolutionary transitions in centromere complexity.

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Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


Centromeres are chromosomal elements that are both necessary and sufficient for chromosome segregation. However, the puzzlingly broad range in centromere complexity, from simple "point" centromeres to multi-megabase arrays of DNA satellites, has defied explanation. We posit that ancestral centromeres were epigenetically defined and that point centromeres, such as those of budding yeast, have derived from the partitioning elements of selfish plasmids. We further propose that the larger centromere sizes in plants and animals and the rapid evolution of their centromeric proteins is the result of an intense battle for evolutionary dominance due to the asymmetric retention of only one product of female meiosis.

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