Neocentromeres: a place for everything and everything in its place.
Centromeres are essential for chromosome inheritance and genome stability. Centromeric proteins, including the centromeric histone centromere protein A (CENP-A), define the site of centromeric chromatin and kinetochore assembly. In many organisms, centromeres are located in or near regions of repetitive DNA. However, some atypical centromeres spontaneously form on unique sequences. These neocentromeres, or new centromeres, were first identified in humans, but have since been described in other organisms. Neocentromeres are functionally and structurally similar to endogenous centromeres, but lack the added complication of underlying repetitive sequences. Here, we discuss recent studies in chicken and fungal systems where genomic engineering can promote neocentromere formation. These studies reveal key genomic and epigenetic factors that support de novo centromere formation in eukaryotes.
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