Transcription and ncRNAs: at the cent(rome)re of kinetochore assembly and maintenance.
Centromeres are sites of chromosomal spindle attachment during mitosis and meiosis. Centromeres are defined, in part, by a distinct chromatin landscape in which histone H3 is replaced by the conserved histone H3 variant, CENP-A. Sequences competent for centromere formation and function vary among organisms and are typically composed of repetitive DNA. It is unclear how such diverse genomic signals are integrated with the epigenetic mechanisms that govern CENP-A incorporation at a single locus on each chromosome. Recent work highlights the intriguing possibility that the transcriptional properties of centromeric core DNA contribute to centromere identity and maintenance through cell division. Moreover, core-derived noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) have emerged as active participants in the regulation and control of centromere activity in plants and mammals. This paper reviews the transcriptional properties of eukaryotic centromeres and discusses the known roles of core-derived ncRNAs in chromatin integrity, kinetochore assembly, and centromere activity.
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