The study of higher order chromosome structure and how it is modified through the course of the cell cycle has fascinated geneticists, biochemists, and cell biologists for decades. The results from many diverse technical avenues have converged in the discovery of a large superfamily of chromosome-associated proteins known as SMCs, for structural maintenance of chromosomes, which are predicted to have ATPase activity. Now found in all eukaryotes examined, and numerous prokaryotes as well, SMCs play crucial roles in chromatid cohesion, chromosome condensation, sex chromosome dosage compensation, and DNA recombination repair. In eukaryotes, SMCs exist in five subfamilies, which appear to associate with one another in particular pairs to perform their specific functions. In this review, we summarize current progress examining the roles these proteins, and the complexes they form, play in chromosome metabolism. We also present a twist in the SMC story, with the possibility of one SMC moonlighting in an unpredicted location.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.