Epigenetic centromere propagation and the nature of CENP-a nucleosomes

Cell. 2011 Feb 18;144(4):471-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.02.002.


Centromeres direct chromosome inheritance, but in multicellular organisms their positions on chromosomes are primarily specified epigenetically rather than by a DNA sequence. The major candidate for the epigenetic mark is chromatin assembled with the histone H3 variant CENP-A. Recent studies offer conflicting evidence for the structure of CENP-A-containing chromatin, including the histone composition and handedness of the DNA wrapped around the histones. We present a model for the assembly and deposition of centromeric nucleosomes that couples these processes to the cell cycle. This model reconciles divergent data for CENP-A-containing nucleosomes and provides a basis for how centromere identity is stably inherited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / metabolism*
  • Centromere / metabolism*
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones
  • Humans
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*


  • Autoantigens
  • CENPA protein, human
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromatin
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes