Academic journal article Genetics

The Rapidly Evolving Centromere-Specific Histone Has Stringent Functional Requirements in Arabidopsis Thaliana

Academic journal article Genetics

The Rapidly Evolving Centromere-Specific Histone Has Stringent Functional Requirements in Arabidopsis Thaliana

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Centromeres control chromosome inheritance in eukaryotes, yet their DNA structure and primary sequence are hypervariable. Most animals and plants have megabases of tandem repeats at their centromeres, unlike yeast with unique centromere sequences. Centromere function requires the centromere-specific histone CENH3 (CENP-A in human), which replaces histone H3 in centromeric nucleosomes. CENH3 evolves rapidly, particularly in its N-terminal tail domain. A portion of the CENH3 histone-fold domain, the CENP-A targeting domain (CATD), has been previously shown to confer kinetochore localization and centromere function when swapped into human H3. Furthermore, CENP-A in human cells can be functionally replaced by CENH3 from distantly related organisms including Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We have used cenh3-1 (a null mutant in Arabidopsis thaliana) to replace endogenous CENH3 with GFP-tagged variants. A H3.3 tail domain-CENH3 histone-fold domain chimera rescued viability of cenh3-1, but CENH3's lacking a tail domain were nonfunctional. In contrast to human results, H3 containing the A. thaliana CATD cannot complement cenh3-1. GFP-CENH3 from the sister species A. arenosa functionally replaces A. thaliana CENH3. GFP-CENH3 from the close relative Brassica rapa was targeted to centromeres, but did not complement cenh3-1, indicating that kinetochore localization and centromere function can be uncoupled. We conclude that CENH3 function in A. thaliana, an organism with large tandem repeat centromeres, has stringent requirements for functional complementation in mitosis.

CENTROMERES are essential for chromosome inheritance, because they nucleate kinetochores, the protein complexes on eukaryotic chromosomes that attach to spindle microtubules. Despite the essential requirement for centromeres in chromosome segregation, their DNA sequences and the sequences of kinetochore proteins are highly variable. Kinetochores in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and related budding yeasts assemble on small, unique centromere DNAs (125 bp in S. cerevisiae) (Meraldi et al. 2006). Centromere DNAs in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe are larger, consisting of a central core sequence of 4-5 kb, which binds kinetochore proteins, flanked by large inverted repeats whose heterochromatic nature is important for centromere function (the total size of the S. pombe centromere DNA is 35-110 kb). At the other extreme from small yeast centromeres are holocentric organisms, such as Caenorhabditis elegans, in which kinetochore proteins bind along the entire length of mitotic chromosomes (Dernburg 2001). Most plants and animals have extremely large centromere DNA tracts consisting of megabases of simple tandem repeats. The repeat sequence evolves extremely rapidly, and only a small fraction of the repeat array is likely to be bound by kinetochore proteins. Furthermore, kinetochores can be nucleated by noncentromeric DNA sequences in plant and animal cells (Amor and Choo 2002; Nagaki et al. 2004; Nasuda et al. 2005; Heun et al. 2006; Wade et al. 2009). Despite these findings, the maintenance of massive centromere repeat arrays in both animal and plant taxa suggests that repeats are a central feature of centromere biology in these organisms.

Although centromere DNAs are extremely diverse, all eukaryote kinetochores contain the centromerespecific histone H3 variant CENH3 (originally described as CENP-A in human) (Henikoff and Dalal 2005; Black and Bassett 2008). CENH3 replaces conventional H3 specifically in a subset of centromere nucleosomes. It is essential for kinetochore function in all eukaryotes where this requirement has been tested. Conventional histones are among the most conserved proteins in eukaryote genomes. In contrast, CENH3 is rapidly evolving. The C-terminal histone-fold domain, which complexes with other histones to form the globular nucleosome core, can be aligned with conventional H3's but evolves rapidly and shows signatures of adaptive evolution in some residues (Malik and Henikoff 2001; Talbert et al. …

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