Conflict begets complexity: the evolution of centromeres

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2002 Dec;12(6):711-8. doi: 10.1016/s0959-437x(02)00351-9.


Centromeres mediate the faithful segregation of eukaryotic chromosomes. Yet they display a remarkable range in size and complexity across eukaryotes, from approximately 125 bp in budding yeast to megabases of repetitive satellites in human chromosomes. Mapping the fine-scale structure of complex centromeres has proven to be daunting, but recent studies have provided a first glimpse into this unexplored bastion of our genomes and the evolutionary pressures that shape it. Evolutionary studies of proteins that bind centromeric DNA suggest genetic conflict as the underlying basis of centromere complexity, drawing interesting parallels with the myriad selfish elements that employ centromeric activity for their own survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Centromere / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Human, X
  • DNA, Satellite
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis


  • DNA, Satellite