Human centromeres are specified by a stably inherited epigenetic mark that maintains centromere position and function through a two-step mechanism relying on self-templating centromeric chromatin assembled with the histone H3 variant CENP-A, followed by CENP-A-dependent nucleation of kinetochore assembly. Nevertheless, natural human centromeres are positioned within specific megabase chromosomal regions containing α-satellite DNA repeats, which contain binding sites for the DNA sequence-specific binding protein CENP-B. We now demonstrate that CENP-B directly binds both CENP-A's amino-terminal tail and CENP-C, a key nucleator of kinetochore assembly. DNA sequence-dependent binding of CENP-B within α-satellite repeats is required to stabilize optimal centromeric levels of CENP-C. Chromosomes bearing centromeres without bound CENP-B, including the human Y chromosome, are shown to mis-segregate in cells at rates several-fold higher than chromosomes with CENP-B-containing centromeres. These data demonstrate a DNA sequence-specific enhancement by CENP-B of the fidelity of epigenetically defined human centromere function.
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