Centromeres are key regions of eukaryotic chromosomes that ensure proper chromosome segregation at cell division. In most eukaryotes, centromere identity is defined epigenetically by the presence of a centromeric histone H3 variant CenH3, called CENP-A in humans. How CENP-A is incorporated and reproducibly transmitted during the cell cycle is at the heart of this fundamental epigenetic mechanism. Centromeric DNA is replicated during S phase; however unlike replication-coupled assembly of canonical histones during S phase, newly synthesized CENP-A deposition at centromeres is restricted to a discrete time in late telophase/early G1. These observations raise an important question: when ‘old’ CENP-A nucleosomes are segregated at the replication fork, are the resulting ‘gaps’ maintained until the next G1, or are they filled by H3 nucleosomes during S phase and replaced by CENP-A in the following G1? Understanding such molecular mechanisms is important to reveal the composition/organization of centromeres in mitosis, when the kinetochore forms and functions. Here we investigate centromeric chromatin status during the cell cycle, using the SNAP-tag methodology to visualize old and new histones on extended chromatin fibers in human cells. Our results show that (1) both histone H3 variants H3.1 and H3.3 are deposited at centromeric domains in S phase and (2) there is reduced H3.3 (but not reduced H3.1) at centromeres in G1 phase compared to S phase. These observations are consistent with a replacement model, where both H3.1 and H3.3 are deposited at centromeres in S phase and ‘placeholder’ H3.3 is replaced with CENP-A in G1.
centromere; kinetochore; CENP-A; DNA replication; mitosis; cell cycle; histone deposition
The interplay between host genetics, tumor microenvironment and environmental exposure in cancer susceptibility remains poorly understood. Here we assessed the genetic control of stromal mediation of mammary tumor susceptibility to low dose ionizing radiation (LDIR) using backcrossed F1 into BALB/c (F1Bx) between cancer susceptible (BALB/c) and resistant (SPRET/EiJ) mouse strains. Tumor formation was evaluated after transplantation of non-irradiated Trp53-/- BALB/c mammary gland fragments into cleared fat pads of F1Bx hosts. Genome-wide linkage analysis revealed 2 genetic loci that constitute the baseline susceptibility via host microenvironment. However, once challenged with LDIR, we discovered 13 additional loci that were enriched for genes involved in cytokines, including TGFβ1 signaling. Surprisingly, LDIR-treated F1Bx cohort significantly reduced incidence of mammary tumors from Trp53-/- fragments as well as prolonged tumor latency, compared to sham-treated controls. We demonstrated further that plasma levels of specific cytokines were significantly correlated with tumor latency. Using an ex vivo 3-D assay, we confirmed TGFβ1 as a strong candidate for reduced mammary invasion in SPRET/EiJ, which could explain resistance of this strain to mammary cancer risk following LDIR. Our results open possible new avenues to understand mechanisms of genes operating via the stroma that affect cancer risk from external environmental exposures.
In this review we summarize recent studies that demonstrate the importance of epigenetic mechanisms for maintaining genome integrity, specifically with respect to repeated DNAs within heterochromatin. Potential problems that arise during replication, recombination, and repair of repeated sequences are counteracted by post-translational histone modifications and associated proteins, including the cohesins. These factors appear to ensure repeat stability by multiple mechanisms: suppressing homologous recombination, controlling the three-dimensional organization of damaged repeats to reduce the probability of aberrant recombination, and promoting the use of less problematic repair pathways. The presence of such systems may facilitate repeat and chromosome evolution, and their failure can lead to genome instability, chromosome rearrangements, and the onset of pathogenesis.
An estimated 80% of genomic DNA in eukaryotes is packaged as nucleosomes, which, together with the remaining interstitial linker regions, generate higher order chromatin structures . Nucleosome sequences isolated from diverse organisms exhibit ∼10 bp periodic variations in AA, TT and GC dinucleotide frequencies. These sequence elements generate intrinsically curved DNA and help establish the histone-DNA interface. We investigated an important unanswered question concerning the interplay between chromatin organization and genome evolution: do the DNA sequence preferences inherent to the highly conserved histone core exert detectable natural selection on genomic divergence and polymorphism? To address this hypothesis, we isolated nucleosomal DNA sequences from Drosophila melanogaster embryos and examined the underlying genomic variation within and between species. We found that divergence along the D. melanogaster lineage is periodic across nucleosome regions with base changes following preferred nucleotides, providing new evidence for systematic evolutionary forces in the generation and maintenance of nucleosome-associated dinucleotide periodicities. Further, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) frequency spectra show striking periodicities across nucleosomal regions, paralleling divergence patterns. Preferred alleles occur at higher frequencies in natural populations, consistent with a central role for natural selection. These patterns are stronger for nucleosomes in introns than in intergenic regions, suggesting selection is stronger in transcribed regions where nucleosomes undergo more displacement, remodeling and functional modification. In addition, we observe a large-scale (∼180 bp) periodic enrichment of AA/TT dinucleotides associated with nucleosome occupancy, while GC dinucleotide frequency peaks in linker regions. Divergence and polymorphism data also support a role for natural selection in the generation and maintenance of these super-nucleosomal patterns. Our results demonstrate that nucleosome-associated sequence periodicities are under selective pressure, implying that structural interactions between nucleosomes and DNA sequence shape sequence evolution, particularly in introns.
In eukaryotic cells, the majority of DNA is packaged in nucleosomes comprised of ∼147 bp of DNA wound tightly around the highly conserved histone octamer. Nucleosomal DNA from diverse organisms shows an anti-correlated ∼10 bp periodicity of AT-rich and GC-rich dinucleotides. These sequence features influence DNA bending and shape, facilitating structural interactions. We asked whether natural selection mediated through the periodic sequence preferences of nucleosomes shapes the evolution of non-protein-coding regions of D. melanogaster by examining the inter- and intra-species genomic variation relative to these fundamental chromatin building blocks. The sequence changes across nucleosome-bound regions on the melanogaster lineage mirror the observed nucleosome dinucleotide periodicities. Importantly, we show that the frequencies of polymorphisms in natural populations vary across these regions, paralleling divergence, with higher frequencies of preferred alleles. These patterns are most evident for intronic regions and indicate that non-protein coding regions are evolving toward sequences that facilitate the canonical association with the histone core. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that interactions between DNA and the core have systematic impacts on function that are subject to natural selection and are not solely due to mutational bias. These ubiquitous interactions with the histone core partially account for the evolutionary constraint observed in unannotated genomic regions, and may drive broad changes in base composition.
The concept that a breast cancer patient's menstrual stage at the time of tumor surgery influences risk of metastases remains controversial. The scarcity of comprehensive molecular studies of menstrual stage-dependent fluctuations in the breast provides little insight. To gain a deeper understanding of the biological changes in mammary tissue and blood during the menstrual cycle and to determine the influence of environmental exposures, such as low-dose ionizing radiation (LDIR), we used the mouse to characterize estrous-cycle variations in mammary gene transcripts by RNA-sequencing, peripheral white blood cell (WBC) counts and plasma cytokine levels. We identified an estrous-variable and hormone-dependent gene cluster enriched for Type-1 interferon genes. Cox regression identified a 117-gene signature of interferon-associated genes, which correlated with lower frequencies of metastasis in breast cancer patients. LDIR (10cGy) exposure had no detectable effect on mammary transcripts. However, peripheral WBC counts varied across the estrous cycle and LDIR exposure reduced lymphocyte counts and cytokine levels in tumor-susceptible mice. Our finding of variations in mammary Type-1 interferon and immune functions across the estrous cycle provides a mechanism by which timing of breast tumor surgery during the menstrual cycle may have clinical relevance to a patient's risk for distant metastases.
estrous cycle; mammary gland; RNA-sequencing; Type-1 interferon; low-dose ionizing radiation (LDIR); immunity; breast cancer; genetic susceptibility
In a chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) experiment, an important consideration in experimental design is the minimum number of sequenced reads required to obtain statistically significant results. We present an extensive evaluation of the impact of sequencing depth on identification of enriched regions for key histone modifications (H3K4me3, H3K36me3, H3K27me3 and H3K9me2/me3) using deep-sequenced datasets in human and fly. We propose to define sufficient sequencing depth as the number of reads at which detected enrichment regions increase <1% for an additional million reads. Although the required depth depends on the nature of the mark and the state of the cell in each experiment, we observe that sufficient depth is often reached at <20 million reads for fly. For human, there are no clear saturation points for the examined datasets, but our analysis suggests 40–50 million reads as a practical minimum for most marks. We also devise a mathematical model to estimate the sufficient depth and total genomic coverage of a mark. Lastly, we find that the five algorithms tested do not agree well for broad enrichment profiles, especially at lower depths. Our findings suggest that sufficient sequencing depth and an appropriate peak-calling algorithm are essential for ensuring robustness of conclusions derived from ChIP-seq data.
Centromeres are essential chromosomal regions required for kinetochore assembly and chromosome segregation. The composition and organization of centromeric nucleosomes containing the essential histone H3 variant CENP-A (CID in Drosophila) is a fundamental, unresolved issue. Using immunoprecipitation of CID mononucleosomes and cysteine crosslinking, we demonstrate that centromeric nucleosomes contain CID dimers in vivo. Furthermore, CID dimerization and centromeric targeting require a residue implicated in formation of the four helix bundle, which mediates intra-nucleosomal H3 dimerization and nucleosome integrity. Taken together, our findings suggest that CID nucleosomes are octameric in vivo and that CID dimerization is essential for correct centromere assembly.
chromatin; centromere; CENP-A; CID; nucleosome
The centromeric histone CENP-A is incorporated at different cell cycle phases during somatic mitosis, meiosis I and meiosis II in Drosophila melanogaster.
CENP-A (CID in flies) is the histone H3 variant essential for centromere specification, kinetochore formation, and chromosome segregation during cell division. Recent studies have elucidated major cell cycle mechanisms and factors critical for CENP-A incorporation in mitosis, predominantly in cultured cells. However, we do not understand the roles, regulation, and cell cycle timing of CENP-A assembly in somatic tissues in multicellular organisms and in meiosis, the specialized cell division cycle that gives rise to haploid gametes. Here we investigate the timing and requirements for CID assembly in mitotic tissues and male and female meiosis in Drosophila melanogaster, using fixed and live imaging combined with genetic approaches. We find that CID assembly initiates at late telophase and continues during G1 phase in somatic tissues in the organism, later than the metaphase assembly observed in cultured cells. Furthermore, CID assembly occurs at two distinct cell cycle phases during male meiosis: prophase of meiosis I and after exit from meiosis II, in spermatids. CID assembly in prophase I is also conserved in female meiosis. Interestingly, we observe a novel decrease in CID levels after the end of meiosis I and before meiosis II, which correlates temporally with changes in kinetochore organization and orientation. We also demonstrate that CID is retained on mature sperm despite the gross chromatin remodeling that occurs during protamine exchange. Finally, we show that the centromere proteins CAL1 and CENP-C are both required for CID assembly in meiosis and normal progression through spermatogenesis. We conclude that the cell cycle timing of CID assembly in meiosis is different from mitosis and that the efficient propagation of CID through meiotic divisions and on sperm is likely to be important for centromere specification in the developing zygote.
Centromeres are regions of eukaryotic chromosomes that recruit the kinetochores and are essential for faithful segregation of DNA during all cell divisions. The centromere-specific histone H3 variant CENP-A accumulates at the centromere, defining this region, and is maintained throughout cellular generations by epigenetic mechanisms in most eukaryotes. Previous studies have discovered many factors regulating both the maintenance and assembly of CENP-A at centromeres during mitosis in cultured cells, but the mode of regulation of CENP-A assembly during meiosis and mitosis in animal tissues is unknown. In this study, we use Drosophila melanogaster as an organismal model to investigate the timing and requirements for assembly of CID, the fly CENP-A homolog. We find that that CID is loaded at centromeres during telophase/G1 phase in brain stem and nonstem cells. In male meiosis, CID is loaded in two phases, during the first stages of meiosis I and after the second meiotic division. Meiosis I loading time is also conserved in females. We also report an unprecedented drop in CID levels after meiosis I and before meiosis II, which correlates with the timing of kinetochore reorientation. Additionally, we find that two essential centromere proteins (CAL1 and CENP-C) are necessary for CID assembly and chromosome segregation during meiosis. Our data demonstrate novel differential timing for CENP-A assembly during mitosis and meiosis in the whole organism.
Chromatin environments differ greatly within a eukaryotic genome, depending on expression state, chromosomal location, and nuclear position. In genomic regions characterized by high repeat content and high gene density, chromatin structure must silence transposable elements but permit expression of embedded genes. We have investigated one such region, chromosome 4 of Drosophila melanogaster. Using chromatin-immunoprecipitation followed by microarray (ChIP–chip) analysis, we examined enrichment patterns of 20 histone modifications and 25 chromosomal proteins in S2 and BG3 cells, as well as the changes in several marks resulting from mutations in key proteins. Active genes on chromosome 4 are distinct from those in euchromatin or pericentric heterochromatin: while there is a depletion of silencing marks at the transcription start sites (TSSs), HP1a and H3K9me3, but not H3K9me2, are enriched strongly over gene bodies. Intriguingly, genes on chromosome 4 are less frequently associated with paused polymerase. However, when the chromatin is altered by depleting HP1a or POF, the RNA pol II enrichment patterns of many chromosome 4 genes shift, showing a significant decrease over gene bodies but not at TSSs, accompanied by lower expression of those genes. Chromosome 4 genes have a low incidence of TRL/GAGA factor binding sites and a low Tm downstream of the TSS, characteristics that could contribute to a low incidence of RNA polymerase pausing. Our data also indicate that EGG and POF jointly regulate H3K9 methylation and promote HP1a binding over gene bodies, while HP1a targeting and H3K9 methylation are maintained at the repeats by an independent mechanism. The HP1a-enriched, POF-associated chromatin structure over the gene bodies may represent one type of adaptation for genes embedded in repetitive DNA.
How DNA is packaged into chromatin has profound implications for gene regulation. While certain chromatin conformations are accessible to RNA polymerase and allow expression, other chromatin structures prevent transcription. In many genomes, genes that need to be expressed and repetitive sequences that need to be silenced are interspersed at close intervals. We use Drosophila melanogaster chromosome 4 as one example of such a complex domain and ask how the genes on this chromosome are packaged and regulated. While the transcription start sites of active genes on chromosome 4 exhibit the expected pattern of chromatin marks, we see an unusual combination of marks over expressed gene bodies, including enrichment of HP1a and H3K9me3. Deposition of HP1a over the gene bodies is dependent on POF (painting of fourth), while its association with intergenic repeat clusters is accomplished by a different mechanism. In this environment, promoter proximal RNA polymerase pausing is largely absent, despite the fact that genome-wide, approximately 10%–15% of all active genes display pausing. A redistribution of polymerase on chromosome 4 genes, including depletion in the gene body, is observed on HP1a depletion. These findings demonstrate how gene regulation mechanisms can be modulated in specific domains of the genome and illustrate the necessity of examining regulatory pathways within chromatin sub-domains, rather than relying on genome-wide averages or on a limited set of reporter genes.
Double-strand breaks (DSBs) in heterochromatic repetitive DNAs pose significant threats to genome integrity, but information about how such lesions are processed and repaired is sparse. We observe dramatic expansion and dynamic protrusions of the heterochromatin domain in response to ionizing radiation (IR) in Drosophila cells. We also find that heterochromatic DSBs are repaired by homologous recombination (HR) but with striking differences from euchromatin. Proteins involved in early HR events (resection) are rapidly recruited to DSBs within heterochromatin. In contrast, Rad51, which mediates strand invasion, only associates with DSBs that relocalize outside of the domain. Hetero-chromatin expansion and relocalization of foci require checkpoint and resection proteins. Finally, the Smc5/6 complex is enriched in heterochromatin and is required to exclude Rad51 from the domain and prevent abnormal recombination. We propose that the spatial and temporal control of DSB repair in heterochromatin safeguards genome stability by preventing aberrant exchanges between repeats.
The Drosophila MSL complex mediates dosage compensation by increasing transcription of the single X chromosome in males approximately two-fold. This is accomplished through recognition of the X chromosome and subsequent acetylation of histone H4K16 on X-linked genes. Initial binding to the X is thought to occur at “entry sites” that contain a consensus sequence motif (“MSL recognition element” or MRE). However, this motif is only ∼2 fold enriched on X, and only a fraction of the motifs on X are initially targeted. Here we ask whether chromatin context could distinguish between utilized and non-utilized copies of the motif, by comparing their relative enrichment for histone modifications and chromosomal proteins mapped in the modENCODE project. Through a comparative analysis of the chromatin features in male S2 cells (which contain MSL complex) and female Kc cells (which lack the complex), we find that the presence of active chromatin modifications, together with an elevated local GC content in the surrounding sequences, has strong predictive value for functional MSL entry sites, independent of MSL binding. We tested these sites for function in Kc cells by RNAi knockdown of Sxl, resulting in induction of MSL complex. We show that ectopic MSL expression in Kc cells leads to H4K16 acetylation around these sites and a relative increase in X chromosome transcription. Collectively, our results support a model in which a pre-existing active chromatin environment, coincident with H3K36me3, contributes to MSL entry site selection. The consequences of MSL targeting of the male X chromosome include increase in nucleosome lability, enrichment for H4K16 acetylation and JIL-1 kinase, and depletion of linker histone H1 on active X-linked genes. Our analysis can serve as a model for identifying chromatin and local sequence features that may contribute to selection of functional protein binding sites in the genome.
The genomes of complex organisms encompass hundreds of millions of base pairs of DNA, and regulatory molecules must distinguish specific targets within this vast landscape. In general, regulatory factors find target genes through sequence-specific interactions with the underlying DNA. However, sequence-specific factors typically bind only a fraction of the candidate genomic regions containing their specific target sequence motif. Here we identify potential roles for chromatin environment and flanking sequence composition in helping regulatory factors find their appropriate binding sites, using targeting of the Drosophila dosage compensation complex as a model. The initial stage of dosage compensation involves binding of the Male Specific Lethal (MSL) complex to a sequence motif called the MSL recognition element . Using data from a large chromatin mapping effort (the modENCODE project), we successfully identify an active chromatin environment as predictive of selective MRE binding by the MSL complex. Our study provides a framework for using genome-wide datasets to analyze and predict functional protein–DNA binding site selection.
Centromere function requires the coordination of many processes including kinetochore assembly, sister chromatid cohesion, spindle attachment and chromosome movement. Here we show that CID, the Drosophila homologue of the CENP-A centromere-specific H3-like proteins, colocalizes with molecular-genetically defined functional centromeres in minichromosomes. Injection of CID antibodies into early embryos, as well as RNA interference in tissue-culture cells, showed that CID is required for several mitotic processes. Deconvolution fluorescence microscopy showed that CID chromatin is physically separate from proteins involved in sister cohesion (MEI-S332), centric condensation (PROD), kinetochore function (ROD, ZW10 and BUB1) and heterochromatin structure (HP1). CID localization is unaffected by mutations in mei-S332, Su(var)2–5 (HP1), prod or polo. Furthermore, the localization of POLO, CENP-meta, ROD, BUB1 and MEI-S332, but not PROD or HP1, depends on the presence of functional CID. We conclude that the centromere and flanking heterochromatin are physically and functionally separable protein domains that are required for different inheritance functions, and that CID is required for normal kinetochore formation and function, as well as cell-cycle progression.
Molecular analysis of a Drosophila minichromosome, Dp(1;f)1187, revealed a relationship between position-effect variegation and the copy number reductions of heterochromatic sequences that occur in polytene cells. Heterochromatin adjacent to a defined junction with euchromatin underpolytenized at least 60-fold. Lesser reductions were observed in euchromatic sequences up to 103 kb from the breakpoint. The copy number changes behaved in all respects like the expression of yellow, a gene located within the affected region. Both copy number and yellow expression displayed a cell-by-cell mosaic pattern of reduction, and adding a Y chromosome, a known suppressor of variegation, increased both substantially. We discuss the possibility that changes in replication alter copy number locally and also propose an alternative model of position-effect variegation based on the somatic elimination of heterochromatic sequences.
The DNA elements responsible for centromere activity in a metazoan have been localized using the Drosophila minichromosome Dp1187. Deleted minichromosomes were generated by irradiation mutagenesis, and their molecular structures were determined by pulsed-field Southern blot analysis. Analyses of the transmission behavior of Dp1187 derivatives localized sequences necessary for chromosome inheritance within the centric heterochromatin. The essential core of the centromere is contained within a 220 kb region that includes significant amounts of complex DNA. Completely normal inheritance also requires ~200 kb on either side of the essential core. This flanking DNA predominantly contains highly repeated sequences, and the amount required for normal transmission differs among division types and between the sexes. We propose that the essential core is the site of kinetochore formation and that flanking DNA provides two functions: sister chromatid cohesion and indirect assistance in kinetochore formation or function.
CENP-A is a histone H3-like protein specific to centromeres that is essential for kinetochore formation and accurate chromosome segregation in eukaryotes. Recent studies (Dunleavy et al., 2009; Foltz et al., 2009; Perpelescu et al., 2009; Pidoux et al., 2009; Williams et al., 2009) analyze CENP-A binding proteins required for the recruitment of CENP-A to centromeres in humans and in fission yeast, bringing us closer to understanding how centromere identity is faithfully propagated.
The centromere-specific histone variant CENP-A (CID in Drosophila) is a structural and functional foundation for kinetochore formation and chromosome segregation. Here, we show that overexpressed CID is mislocalized into normally noncentromeric regions in Drosophila tissue culture cells and animals. Analysis of mitoses in living and fixed cells reveals that mitotic delays, anaphase bridges, chromosome fragmentation, and cell and organismal lethality are all direct consequences of CID mislocalization. In addition, proteins that are normally restricted to endogenous kinetochores assemble at a subset of ectopic CID incorporation regions. The presence of microtubule motors and binding proteins, spindle attachments, and aberrant chromosome morphologies demonstrate that these ectopic kinetochores are functional. We conclude that CID mislocalization promotes formation of ectopic centromeres and multicentric chromosomes, which causes chromosome missegregation, aneuploidy, and growth defects. Thus, CENP-A mislocalization is one possible mechanism for genome instability during cancer progression, as well as centromere plasticity during evolution.
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of centromere-specific histone H3-like (CENP-A) proteins in centromere function. We show that Drosophila CID and human CENP-A appear at metaphase as a three-dimensional structure that lacks histone H3. However, blocks of CID/CENP-A and H3 nucleosomes are linearly interspersed on extended chromatin fibers, and CID is close to H3 nucleosomes in polynucleosomal preparations. When CID is depleted by RNAi, it is replaced by H3, demonstrating flexibility of centromeric chromatin organization. Finally, contrary to models proposing that H3 and CID/CENP-A nucleosomes are replicated at different times in S phase, we show that interspersed H3 and CID/CENP-A chromatin are replicated concurrently during S phase in humans and flies. We propose that the unique structural arrangement of CID/CENP-A and H3 nucleosomes presents centromeric chromatin to the poleward face of the condensing mitotic chromosome.
To gain insight into how genomic information is translated into cellular and developmental programs, the Drosophila model organism Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE) project is comprehensively mapping transcripts, histone modifications, chromosomal proteins, transcription factors, replication proteins and intermediates, and nucleosome properties across a developmental time course and in multiple cell lines. We have generated more than 700 data sets and discovered protein-coding, noncoding, RNA regulatory, replication, and chromatin elements, more than tripling the annotated portion of the Drosophila genome. Correlated activity patterns of these elements reveal a functional regulatory network, which predicts putative new functions for genes, reveals stage- and tissue-specific regulators, and enables gene-expression prediction. Our results provide a foundation for directed experimental and computational studies in Drosophila and related species and also a model for systematic data integration toward comprehensive genomic and functional annotation.
Chromatin is composed of DNA and a variety of modified histones and non-histone proteins, which impact cell differentiation, gene regulation and other key cellular processes. We present a genome-wide chromatin landscape for Drosophila melanogaster based on 18 histone modifications, summarized by 9 prevalent combinatorial patterns. Integrative analysis with other data (non-histone chromatin proteins, DNaseI hypersensitivity, GRO-seq reads produced by engaged polymerase, short/long RNA products) reveals discrete characteristics of chromosomes, genes, regulatory elements, and other functional domains. We find that active genes display distinct chromatin signatures that are correlated with disparate gene lengths, exon patterns, regulatory functions, and genomic contexts. We also demonstrate a diversity of signatures among Polycomb targets that include a subset with paused polymerase. This systematic profiling and integrative analysis of chromatin signatures provides insights into how genomic elements are regulated, and will serve as a resource for future experimental investigations of genome structure and function.
Suppressors and enhancers of position effect variegation (PEV) have been linked to the establishment and maintenance of heterochromatin. The presence of centromeres and other inheritance elements in hetero-chromatic regions suggests that suppressors and enhancers of PEV, Su(var) s and E(var)s [collectively termed Mod(var)s], may be required for chromosome inheritance. In order to test this hypothesis, we screened 59 ethyl methanesulfonate-generated Drosophila Mod (var)s for dominant effects on the partially compromised inheritance of a minichromosome (J21A) missing a portion of the genetically defined centromere. Nearly half of these Mod(var)s significantly increased or decreased the transmission of J21A. Analyses of homozygous mutant larval neuroblasts suggest that these mutations affect cell cycle progression and native chromosome morphology. Five out of six complementation groups tested displayed mitotic abnormalities, including phenotypes such as telomere fusions, overcondensed chromosomes, and low mitotic index. We conclude that Mod (var)s as a group are highly enriched for genes that encode essential inheritance functions. We propose that a primary function of Mod(var)s is to promote chromosome inheritance, and that the gene silencing phenotype associated with PEV may be a secondary consequence of the heterochromatic structures required to carry out these functions.
Semi-conservative segregation of nucleosomes to sister chromatids during DNA replication creates gaps that must be filled by new nucleosome assembly. We analyzed the cell-cycle timing of centromeric chromatin assembly in Drosophila, which contains the H3 variant CID (CENP-A in humans), as well as CENP-C and CAL1, which are required for CID localization. Pulse-chase experiments show that CID and CENP-C levels decrease by 50% at each cell division, as predicted for semi-conservative segregation and inheritance, whereas CAL1 displays higher turnover. Quench-chase-pulse experiments demonstrate that there is a significant lag between replication and replenishment of centromeric chromatin. Surprisingly, new CID is recruited to centromeres in metaphase, by a mechanism that does not require an intact mitotic spindle, but does require proteasome activity. Interestingly, new CAL1 is recruited to centromeres before CID in prophase. Furthermore, CAL1, but not CENP-C, is found in complex with pre-nucleosomal CID. Finally, CENP-C displays yet a different pattern of incorporation, during both interphase and mitosis. The unusual timing of CID recruitment and unique dynamics of CAL1 identify a distinct centromere assembly pathway in Drosophila and suggest that CAL1 is a key regulator of centromere propagation.
The centromere is essential for kinetochore formation, chromosome attachment to spindle microtubules, and equal segregation of the genome to daughter cells. Centromeres are epigenetically inherited through a unique type of chromatin which contains centromere-specific proteins. At each round of DNA replication, centromeric proteins become diluted and must be replenished to ensure faithful maintenance of the centromere locus through cell division. Whether divergent eukaryotes share a common strategy for centromere identity and propagation remains an unanswered question. Here, we examine how Drosophila centromere proteins re-distribute after replication, and we determine the cell-cycle dynamics of their replenishment. We show that three chromatin components required for centromere maintenance display distinct dynamics during the cell cycle; surprisingly, two components are assembled at centromeres during mitosis. These results suggest a new model for regulation of centromere assembly in Drosophila, which emphasizes a key role for the Dipteran-specific protein CAL1.
Three recent papers, including Mizuguchi et al. (2007) in this issue, show that the nonhistone protein Scm3 is required for the recruitment of the histone H3 variant Cse4 to centromeres in budding yeast. Scm3 forms a chromatin component with Cse4:histone H4 tetramers that appear to lack H2A/H2B histones. These studies provide key insights into the pathway that recruits Cse4 to centromeres and have important implications for other functions of chromatin.
Despite the successes of genomics, little is known about how genetic information produces complex organisms. A look at the crucial functional elements of fly and worm genomes could change that.