The CENP-A nucleosome: a dynamic structure and role at the centromere

Chromosome Res. 2012 Jul;20(5):465-79. doi: 10.1007/s10577-012-9301-4.


The centromere is a specialized locus that directs the formation of the kinetochore protein complex for correct chromosome segregation. The specific centromere histone H3 variant CENP-A has been described as the epigenetic mark of this chromatin region. Several laboratories have explored its properties, its partners, and its role in centromere formation. Specifically, two types of CENP-A nucleosomes have been described, suggesting there may be more complexity involved in centromere structure than previously thought. Recent work adds to this paradox by questioning the role of CENP-A as a unique centromeric mark and highlighting the assembly of a functional kinetochore in the absence of CENP-A. In this review, we discuss recent literature on the CENP-A nucleosomes and the debate on its role in kinetochore formation and centromere identity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • Centromere / metabolism*
  • Centromere / physiology
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly*
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Histones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / physiology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


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