Atypical centromeres in plants—what they can tell us

Maria Cuacos, F. Chris H. Franklin, Stefan Heckmann

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29 Citations (Scopus)
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The centromere, visible as the primary constriction of condensed metaphase chromosomes, is a defined chromosomal locus essential for genome stability. It mediates transient assembly of a multi-protein complex, the kinetochore, which enables interaction with spindle fibers and thus faithful segregation of the genetic information during nuclear divisions. Centromeric DNA varies in extent and sequence composition among organisms, but a common feature of almost all active eukaryotic centromeres is the presence of the centromeric histone H3 variant cenH3 (a.k.a. CENP-A). These typical centromere features apply to most studied species. However, a number of species display “atypical” centromeres, such as holocentromeres (centromere extension along almost the entire chromatid length) or neocentromeres (ectopic centromere activity). In this review, we provide an overview of different atypical centromere types found in plants including holocentromeres, de novo formed centromeres and terminal neocentromeres as well as di-, tri- and metapolycentromeres (more than one centromere per chromosomes). We discuss their specific and common features and compare them to centromere types found in other eukaryotic species. We also highlight new insights into centromere biology gained in plants with atypical centromeres such as distinct mechanisms to define a holocentromere, specific adaptations in species with holocentromeres during meiosis or various scenarios leading to neocentromere formation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number913
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2015


  • centromere
  • kinetochore
  • holocentric chromosomes
  • neocentromeres
  • cenH3
  • plants
  • mitosis
  • meiosis


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