Condensins are large protein complexes that play a central role in chromosome organization and segregation in the three domains of life. They display highly characteristic, rod-shaped structures with SMC (structural maintenance of chromosomes) ATPases as their core subunits and organize large-scale chromosome structure through active mechanisms. Most eukaryotic species have two distinct condensin complexes whose balanced usage is adapted flexibly to different organisms and cell types. Studies of bacterial condensins provide deep insights into the fundamental mechanisms of chromosome segregation. This Review surveys both conserved features and rich variations of condensin-based chromosome organization and discusses their evolutionary implications.
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