Neocentromere activity of structurally acentric mini-chromosomes in Drosophila

Nat Genet. 1998 Jan;18(1):30-7. doi: 10.1038/ng0198-30.


Chromosome fragments that lack centromeric DNA (structurally acentric chromosomes) are usually not inherited in mitosis and meiosis. We previously described the isolation, after irradiation of a Drosophila melanogaster mini-chromosome, of structurally acentric mini-chromosomes that display efficient mitotic and meiotic transmission despite their small size (under 300 kb) and lack of centromeric DNA. Here we report that these acentric mini-chromosomes bind the centromere-specific protein ZW10 and associate with the spindle poles in anaphase. The sequences in these acentric mini-chromosomes were derived from the tip of the X chromosome, which does not display centromere activity or localize ZW10, even when separated from the rest of the X. We conclude that the normally non-centromeric DNAs present in these acentric mini-chromosomes have acquired centromere function, and suggest that this example of 'neocentromere' formation involves appropriation of a self-propagating centromeric chromatin structure. The potential relevance of these observations to the identity, propagation and function of normal centromeres is discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins*
  • Centromere* / metabolism
  • Chromosomes
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • X Chromosome


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Zw10 protein, Drosophila
  • DNA