, Volume 126, Issue 5, pp 559–575 | Cite as

Using human artificial chromosomes to study centromere assembly and function

  • Oscar MolinaEmail author
  • Natalay Kouprina
  • Hiroshi Masumoto
  • Vladimir Larionov
  • William C. EarnshawEmail author


Centromeres are the site of assembly of the kinetochore, which directs chromosome segregation during cell division. Active centromeres are characterized by the presence of nucleosomes containing CENP-A and a specific chromatin environment that resembles that of active genes. Recent work using human artificial chromosomes (HAC) sheds light on the fine balance of different histone post-translational modifications and transcription that exists at centromeres for kinetochore assembly and maintenance. Here, we review the use of HAC technology to understand centromere assembly and function. We put particular emphasis on studies using the alphoidtetO HAC, whose centromere can be specifically modified for epigenetic engineering studies.


Human artificial chromosomes Centromere Kinetochore CENP-A Mitosis 


Compliance with ethical standards


This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust, of which W.C.E. is a Principal Research Fellow (grant number 073915). O.M. was funded by the European Molecular Biology Organization (long-term EMBO fellowship; ALTF-453-2012). The Intramural Research Program of the NIH, NCI Center for Cancer Research (V.L. and N.K.) and MEXT KAKENHI grant numbers 23247030, 23114008 and the Kazusa DNA Research Institute Foundation (H.M.).

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell BiologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute. School of MedicineUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Genome Structure and Function group, Developmental Therapeutics BranchNational Cancer Institute, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory of Cell Engineering. Department of Frontier ResearchKazusa DNA Research InstituteKisarazuJapan

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