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Assembly of kinetochore complexes, involving greater than one hundred proteins, is essential for chromosome segregation and genome stability. Neocentromeres, or new centromeres, occur when kinetochores assemble de novo, at DNA loci not previously associated with kinetochore proteins, and they restore chromosome segregation to chromosomes lacking a functional centromere. Neocentromeres have been observed in a number of diseases and may play an evolutionary role in adaptation or speciation. However, the consequences of neocentromere formation on chromosome missegregation rates, gene expression, and three-dimensional (3D) nuclear structure are not well understood. Here, we used Candida albicans, an organism with small, epigenetically-inherited centromeres, as a model system to study the functions of twenty different neocentromere loci along a single chromosome, chromosome 5. Comparison of neocentromere properties relative to native centromere functions revealed that all twenty neocentromeres mediated chromosome segregation, albeit to different degrees. Some neocentromeres also caused reduced levels of transcription from genes found within the neocentromere region. Furthermore, like native centromeres, neocentromeres clustered in 3D with active/functional centromeres, indicating that formation of a new centromere mediates the reorganization of 3D nuclear architecture. This demonstrates that centromere clustering depends on epigenetically defined function and not on the primary DNA sequence, and that neocentromere function is independent of its distance from the native centromere position. Together, the results show that a neocentromere can form at many loci along a chromosome and can support the assembly of a functional kinetochore that exhibits native centromere functions including chromosome segregation accuracy and centromere clustering within the nucleus.


Laura S Burrack, Hannah F Hutton, Kathleen J Matter, Shelly Applen Clancey, Ivan Liachko, Alexandra E Plemmons, Amrita Saha, Erica A Power, Breanna Turman, Mathuravani Aaditiyaa Thevandavakkam, Ferhat Ay, Maitreya J Dunham, Judith Berman. Neocentromeres Provide Chromosome Segregation Accuracy and Centromere Clustering to Multiple Loci along a Candida albicans Chromosome. PLoS genetics. 2016 Sep;12(9):e1006317

PMID: 27662467

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