Inheritance of genetic material requires that chromosomes segregate faithfully during cell division. Failure in this process can drive to aneuploidy phenomenon. Kinetochores are unique centromere macromolecular protein structures that attach chromosomes to the spindle for a proper movement and segregation. A unique type of nucleosomes of centromeric chromatin provides the base for kinetochore formation. A specific histone H3 variant, CENPA, replaces conventional histone H3 and together with centromere-specific-DNA-binding factors directs the assembly of active kinetochores. Recent studies on CENPA nucleosomal structure, epigenetic inheritance of centromeric chromatin and transcription of pericentric heterochromatin provide new clues to our understanding of centromere structure and function. This review highlights the role and dynamics of CENPA assembly into centromeres and the potential contribution of this kinetochore protein to autoimmune and cancer diseases in humans.
Keywords: CENPA, centromere, kinetochore, histone H3-like variant, alphoid DNA, epigenetic, autoantigen, scleroderma, aneuploidy, cancer
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