Evolutionary dynamics of the kinetochore network in eukaryotes as revealed by comparative genomics

EMBO Rep. 2017 Sep;18(9):1559-1571. doi: 10.15252/embr.201744102. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


During eukaryotic cell division, the sister chromatids of duplicated chromosomes are pulled apart by microtubules, which connect via kinetochores. The kinetochore is a multiprotein structure that links centromeres to microtubules, and that emits molecular signals in order to safeguard the equal distribution of duplicated chromosomes over daughter cells. Although microtubule-mediated chromosome segregation is evolutionary conserved, kinetochore compositions seem to have diverged. To systematically inventory kinetochore diversity and to reconstruct its evolution, we determined orthologs of 70 kinetochore proteins in 90 phylogenetically diverse eukaryotes. The resulting ortholog sets imply that the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) possessed a complex kinetochore and highlight that current-day kinetochores differ substantially. These kinetochores diverged through gene loss, duplication, and, less frequently, invention and displacement. Various kinetochore components co-evolved with one another, albeit in different manners. These co-evolutionary patterns improve our understanding of kinetochore function and evolution, which we illustrated with the RZZ complex, TRIP13, the MCC, and some nuclear pore proteins. The extensive diversity of kinetochore compositions in eukaryotes poses numerous questions regarding evolutionary flexibility of essential cellular functions.

Keywords: co‐evolution; eukaryotic diversity; evolutionary cell biology; gene loss; kinetochore.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Division
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Kinetochores / chemistry
  • Kinetochores / physiology*
  • Microtubules


  • Cell Cycle Proteins