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EMBO J. 2020 Mar 5:e103234. doi: 10.15252/embj.2019103234. [Epub ahead of print]

Structural basis for centromere maintenance by Drosophila CENP-A chaperone CAL1.

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Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
School of Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.
Institute of Biotechnology, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Centromeres are microtubule attachment sites on chromosomes defined by the enrichment of histone variant CENP-A-containing nucleosomes. To preserve centromere identity, CENP-A must be escorted to centromeres by a CENP-A-specific chaperone for deposition. Despite this essential requirement, many eukaryotes differ in the composition of players involved in centromere maintenance, highlighting the plasticity of this process. In humans, CENP-A recognition and centromere targeting are achieved by HJURP and the Mis18 complex, respectively. Using X-ray crystallography, we here show how Drosophila CAL1, an evolutionarily distinct CENP-A histone chaperone, binds both CENP-A and the centromere receptor CENP-C without the requirement for the Mis18 complex. While an N-terminal CAL1 fragment wraps around CENP-A/H4 through multiple physical contacts, a C-terminal CAL1 fragment directly binds a CENP-C cupin domain dimer. Although divergent at the primary structure level, CAL1 thus binds CENP-A/H4 using evolutionarily conserved and adaptive structural principles. The CAL1 binding site on CENP-C is strategically positioned near the cupin dimerisation interface, restricting binding to just one CAL1 molecule per CENP-C dimer. Overall, by demonstrating how CAL1 binds CENP-A/H4 and CENP-C, we provide key insights into the minimalistic principles underlying centromere maintenance.


CAL1; CENP-A; CENP-C; centromeres; chromosome segregation


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