Mitotic chromosome condensation requires phosphorylation of the centromeric protein KNL-2 in C. elegans

J Cell Sci. 2021 Dec 1;134(23):jcs259088. doi: 10.1242/jcs.259088. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Centromeres are chromosomal regions that serve as sites for kinetochore formation and microtubule attachment, processes that are essential for chromosome segregation during mitosis. Centromeres are almost universally defined by the histone variant CENP-A. In the holocentric nematode C. elegans, CENP-A deposition depends on the loading factor KNL-2. Depletion of either CENP-A or KNL-2 results in defects in centromere maintenance, chromosome condensation and kinetochore formation, leading to chromosome segregation failure. Here, we show that KNL-2 is phosphorylated by CDK-1 in vitro, and that mutation of three C-terminal phosphorylation sites causes chromosome segregation defects and an increase in embryonic lethality. In strains expressing phosphodeficient KNL-2, CENP-A and kinetochore proteins are properly localised, indicating that the role of KNL-2 in centromere maintenance is not affected. Instead, the mutant embryos exhibit reduced mitotic levels of condensin II on chromosomes and significant chromosome condensation impairment. Our findings separate the functions of KNL-2 in CENP-A loading and chromosome condensation, and demonstrate that KNL-2 phosphorylation regulates the cooperation between centromeric regions and the condensation machinery in C. elegans. This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

Keywords: C. elegans; Centromere; Chromosome condensation; Condensin II; KNL-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins* / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins* / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / metabolism
  • Centromere / metabolism
  • Centromere Protein A / genetics
  • Centromere Protein A / metabolism
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / genetics
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Humans
  • Kinetochores / metabolism
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitosis
  • Phosphorylation


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Centromere Protein A
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • KNL-2 protein, C elegans
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins