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Nat Genet. 1998 Jan;18(1):30-7.

Neocentromere activity of structurally acentric mini-chromosomes in Drosophila.

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Section of Genetics and Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Chromosome fragments that lack centromeric DNA (structurally acentric chromosomes) are usually not inherited in mitosis and meiosis. We previously described the isolation, after irradiation of a Drosophila melanogaster mini-chromosome, of structurally acentric mini-chromosomes that display efficient mitotic and meiotic transmission despite their small size (under 300 kb) and lack of centromeric DNA. Here we report that these acentric mini-chromosomes bind the centromere-specific protein ZW10 and associate with the spindle poles in anaphase. The sequences in these acentric mini-chromosomes were derived from the tip of the X chromosome, which does not display centromere activity or localize ZW10, even when separated from the rest of the X. We conclude that the normally non-centromeric DNAs present in these acentric mini-chromosomes have acquired centromere function, and suggest that this example of 'neocentromere' formation involves appropriation of a self-propagating centromeric chromatin structure. The potential relevance of these observations to the identity, propagation and function of normal centromeres is discussed.

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