The centromere is a complex chromosomal locus where the kinetochore is formed and microtubules attach during cell division. Centromere identity involves both genomic and sequence-independent (epigenetic) mechanisms. Current models for how centromeres are formed and, conversely, turned off have emerged from studies of unusual or engineered chromosomes, such as neocentromeres, artificial chromosomes, and dicentric chromosomes. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of unique chromatin marked by the histone H3 variant CENP-A, classical chromatin (heterochromatin and euchromatin), and transcription during centromere activation and inactivation. These advances have deepened our view of what defines a centromere and how it behaves in various genomic and chromatin contexts.
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