, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 521-534

Kinetochore and heterochromatin domains of the fission yeast centromere

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Fission yeast centromeres are composed of two distinctive chromatin domains. The central domain nucleosomes contain the histone H3-like protein CENP-ACnp1. In contrast, the flanking repeats are coated with silent chromatin in which Swi6 (HP1) binds histone H3 methylated on lysine 9 that is induced by the action of the RNA interference pathway on non-coding centromeric transcripts. The overall structure is similar to that of metazoan centromeres where the kinetochore is embedded in surrounding heterochromatin. Kinetochore specific proteins associate with the central domain and affect silencing in that region. The flanking heterochromatin is required to recruit cohesin and mediate tight physical cohesion between sister centromeres. The loss of silencing that accompanies defects in heterochromatin has been invaluable as a tool in the investigation of centromere function. Both the heterochromatin and kinetochore regions are required for the de novo assembly of a functional centromere on DNA constructs, suggesting that heterochromatin may provide an environment that promotes kinetochore assembly within the central domain. The process is clearly epigenetically regulated. Fission yeast kinetochores associate with 2–4 microtubules, and flanking heterochromatin may be required to promote the orientation of multiple microtubule binding sites on one kinetochore towards the same pole and thus prevent merotelic orientation.

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.