Chromatin featuring the H3 variant CENP-A at the centromere is critical for its mitotic function and epigenetic maintenance. Assembly of centromeric chromatin is restricted to G1 phase through inhibitory action of Cdk1/2 kinases in other phases of the cell cycle. Here, we identify the two key targets sufficient to maintain cell-cycle control of CENP-A assembly. We uncovered a single phosphorylation site in the licensing factor M18BP1 and a cyclin A binding site in the CENP-A chaperone, HJURP, that mediated specific inhibitory phosphorylation. Simultaneous expression of mutant proteins lacking these residues results in complete uncoupling from the cell cycle. Consequently, CENP-A assembly is fully recapitulated under high Cdk activities, indistinguishable from G1 assembly. We find that Cdk-mediated inhibition is exerted by sequestering active factors away from the centromere. Finally, we show that displacement of M18BP1 from the centromere is critical for the assembly mechanism of CENP-A.
Keywords: CENP-A; cell cycle; centromere; chromatin; cyclin dependent kinase; epigenetics; histone variant; kinetochore; mitosis.
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