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Elife. 2019 Feb 11;8. pii: e43938. doi: 10.7554/eLife.43938.

The modular mechanism of chromocenter formation in Drosophila.

Author information

Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States.
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States.
Contributed equally


A central principle underlying the ubiquity and abundance of pericentromeric satellite DNA repeats in eukaryotes has remained poorly understood. Previously we proposed that the interchromosomal clustering of satellite DNAs into nuclear structures known as chromocenters ensures encapsulation of all chromosomes into a single nucleus (Jagannathan et al., 2018). Chromocenter disruption led to micronuclei formation, resulting in cell death. Here we show that chromocenter formation is mediated by a 'modular' network, where associations between two sequence-specific satellite DNA-binding proteins, D1 and Prod, bound to their cognate satellite DNAs, bring the full complement of chromosomes into the chromocenter. D1 prod double mutants die during embryogenesis, exhibiting enhanced phenotypes associated with chromocenter disruption, revealing the universal importance of satellite DNAs and chromocenters. Taken together, we propose that associations between chromocenter modules, consisting of satellite DNA binding proteins and their cognate satellite DNA, package the Drosophila genome within a single nucleus.


D. melanogaster; chromocenter; chromosomes; developmental biology; gene expression; micronuclei; satellite DNA

Conflict of interest statement

MJ, RC No competing interests declared, YY Reviewing editor, eLife

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