Centromere protein CENP-A is a histone H3-like protein associated specifically with the centromere and represents one of the human autoantigens identified by sera taken from patients with the CREST variant of progressive systemic sclerosis. Injection of whole human autoimmune serum to the centromere into interphase cells disrupts some mitotic events. It has been assumed that this effect is due to CENP-E and CENP-C autoantigens, because of the effects of injecting monospecific sera to those proteins into culture cells. Here we have used an antibody raised against an N-terminal peptide of the human autoantigen CENP-A to determine its function in mitosis and during cell cycle progression. Affinity-purified anti-CENP-A antibodies injected into the nucleus during the early replication stages of the cell cycle caused cells to arrest in interphase before mitosis. These cells showed highly condensed small nuclei, a granular cytoplasm and loss of their division capability. On the other hand, microinjection of nocodazole-blocked HeLa cells in mitosis resulted in the typical punctate staining pattern of CENP-A for centromeres during different stages of mitosis and apparently normal cell division. This was corroborated by time-lapse imaging microscopy analysis of mid-interphase-injected cells, revealing that they undergo mitosis and divide properly. However, a significant delay throughout the progression of mitotic stages was observed. These results suggest that CENP-A is involved predominantly in an essential interphase event at the centromere before mitosis. This may include chromatin assembly at the kinetochore coordinate with late replication of satellite DNA to form an active centromere.