Adaptations for centromere function in meiosis

Essays Biochem. 2020 Sep 4;64(2):193-203. doi: 10.1042/EBC20190076.


The aim of mitosis is to segregate duplicated chromosomes equally into daughter cells during cell division. Meiosis serves a similar purpose, but additionally separates homologous chromosomes to produce haploid gametes for sexual reproduction. Both mitosis and meiosis rely on centromeres for the segregation of chromosomes. Centromeres are the specialized regions of the chromosomes that are attached to microtubules during their segregation. In this review, we describe the adaptations and layers of regulation that are required for centromere function during meiosis, and their role in meiosis-specific processes such as homolog-pairing and recombination. Since female meiotic divisions are asymmetric, meiotic centromeres are hypothesized to evolve quickly in order to favor their own transmission to the offspring, resulting in the rapid evolution of many centromeric proteins. We discuss this observation using the example of the histone variant CENP-A, which marks the centromere and is essential for centromere function. Changes in both the size and the sequence of the CENP-A N-terminal tail have led to additional functions of the protein, which are likely related to its roles during meiosis. We highlight the importance of CENP-A in the inheritance of centromere identity, which is dependent on the stabilization, recycling, or re-establishment of CENP-A-containing chromatin during meiosis.

Keywords: CENP-A; centromere; chromosomes; meiosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centromere / physiology*
  • Centromere Protein A / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Plants


  • Centromere Protein A