Centromere inheritance through the germline

Chromosoma. 2017 Oct;126(5):595-604. doi: 10.1007/s00412-017-0640-y. Epub 2017 Aug 8.


The centromere directs chromosome segregation and genetic inheritance but is not itself heritable in a canonical, DNA-based manner. In most species, centromeres are epigenetically defined by the presence of a histone H3 variant centromere protein A (CENP-A), independent of underlying DNA sequence. Therefore, centromere inheritance depends on maintaining the CENP-A nucleosome mark across generations. Experiments in cycling somatic cells have led to a model in which centromere identity is maintained by a cell cycle-coupled CENP-A chromatin assembly pathway. However, the processes of animal gametogenesis pose unique challenges to centromere inheritance because of the extended cell cycle arrest and the massive genome reorganization in the female and male germline, respectively. Here, we review our current understanding of germline centromere inheritance and highlight outstanding questions.

Keywords: CENP-A; Centromere; Germline; Inheritance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centromere / genetics*
  • Centromere / metabolism
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Germ Cells*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns*


  • Centromere Protein A