The CENP-A nucleosome: a battle between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Nucleus. Jan-Feb 2013;4(1):37-42. doi: 10.4161/nucl.23588. Epub 2013 Jan 1.


The structure of the centromere-specific histone centromeric protein A (CENP-A) nucleosome has been a hot topic of debate for the past five years. Structures proposed include octamers, hexamers, homotypic and heterotypic tetramers. This controversy has led to the proposal that CENP-A nucleosomes undergo cell-cycle dependent transitions between the multiple states previously documented to exist in vivo and in vitro. In recent work from our laboratory, we sought to test this hypothesis. We discovered that CENP-A nucleosomes undergo unique oscillations in human cells, a finding mirrored in a parallel study performed in budding yeast. This review provides additional insights into the potential mechanisms for the interconversion of CENP-A nucleosomal species, and speculates on a biological role for oscillations in vivo.

Keywords: AFM; CENP-A; acetylation; cell-cycle; hemisome; nucleosome; octamer; oscillation; structure; tetramer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantigens / chemistry
  • Autoantigens / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / chemistry
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization


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