Plant Centromeres


The centromere functions are conserved among all eukaryotes but different organisms have strikingly different centromeric deoxyribonucleic acids (DNAs). Currently in molecular terms, the functional centromere can be defined as a domain of the chromosome where DNA sequences interact with the kinetochore components – proteins. A fundamental feature of all the studied centromeres is a specialized histone H3 variant known as centromeric histone (CENH3). Adaptive evolution of the molecular components contributed to the epigenetic modulation of centomere activity.

Keywords: chromosome; centromere; tandem DNA repeats; CENH3 protein; adaptive evolution

Figure 1.

Typical metaphase chromosome. Each chromatid contains one of two identical DNA molecules.

Figure 2.

The types of metaphase chromosomes.

Figure 3.

Different stages of mitosis. (a, b) – prophase; (c, d) – prometaphase; (e, f) – metaphase; (g) – anaphase; (h) – telophase.

Figure 4.

DNA structure in the human and Arabidopsis centromeres. Rectangles show the tandemly organized monomers with identical nucleotides order (primary DNA structure), which are arbitrary. Different species have no homology in DNA sequences of monomers. The monomers order coupled with the chromatin proteins (first CENH3) is likely involved in the forming of the specific centromeric chromatin organization. For information, the monomer size of some eukaryotic species: different species of ape – 171 bp; maize – 180 bp; rice – 168 bp, Chironomus – 155 bp.

Figure 5.

Scheme illustrated a model of meiotic drive of centromere evolution. (a) – centromeres (grey) nucleate a specialized set of proteins called the kinetochore (white), including CENH3 (A) and CENP‐C (C) (both proteins in blue), which in turn interact with the spindle microtubules (red lines). As centromere sequences diverge, either CENH3 or CENP‐C has evolved adaptively (darker blue) in different lineages. (b) – changes in the sequence or organization of centromere DNA (green) may create stronger centromeres (indicated by a greater number of microtubule interactions).



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Further Reading

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How to Cite close
Vershinin, Alexander V(Sep 2007) Plant Centromeres. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020112]