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.
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