Chromosome Research

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 595-605

Dicentric chromosomes: unique models to study centromere function and inactivation

  • Kaitlin M. StimpsonAffiliated withInstitute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University
  • , Justyne E. MathenyAffiliated withInstitute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University
  • , Beth A. SullivanAffiliated withInstitute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke UniversityDepartment of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center Email author 


Dicentric chromosomes are products of genome rearrangement that place two centromeres on the same chromosome. Depending on the organism, dicentric stability varies after formation. In humans, dicentrics occur naturally in a substantial portion of the population and usually segregate successfully in mitosis and meiosis. Their stability has been attributed to inactivation of one of the two centromeres, creating a functionally monocentric chromosome that can segregate normally during cell division. The molecular basis for centromere inactivation is not well understood, although studies in model organisms and in humans suggest that genomic and epigenetic mechanisms can be involved. Furthermore, constitutional dicentric chromosomes ascertained in patients presumably represent the most stable chromosomes, so the spectrum of dicentric fates, if it exists, is not entirely clear. Studies of engineered or induced dicentrics in budding yeast and plants have provided significant insight into the fate of dicentric chromosomes. And, more recently, studies have shown that dicentrics in humans can also undergo multiple fates after formation. Here, we discuss current experimental evidence from various organisms that has deepened our understanding of dicentric behavior and the intriguingly complex process of centromere inactivation.


CENP-A heterochromatin euchromatin DNA methylation deletion fusion