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Research Article
Distinct centromere domain structures with separate functions demonstrated in live fission yeast cells
Henrik Appelgren , Barbara Kniola , Karl Ekwall
J Cell Sci 2003 116: 4035-4042; doi:10.1242/jcs.00707
Henrik Appelgren
Barbara Kniola
Karl Ekwall

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Fission yeast ( Saccharomyces pombe ) centromere DNA is organized in a central core region flanked on either side by a region of outer repeat ( otr ) sequences. The otr region is known to be heterochromatic and bound by the Swi6 protein whereas the central core region contains an unusual chromatin structure involving the histone H3 variant Cnp1 ( S. pombe CENP-A). The central core is the base for formation of the kinetochore structure whereas the flanking region is important for sister centromere cohesion. We have previously shown that the ultrastructural domain structure of S. pombe centromeres in interphase is similar to that of human centromeres. Here we demonstrate that S. pombe centromeres are organized in cytologically distinct domains even in mitosis. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of fixed metaphase cells revealed that the otr regions of the centromere were still held together by cohesion even after the sister kinetochores had separated. In live cells, the central cores and kinetochores of sister chromosomes could be distinguished from one another when they were subjected to mitotic tension. The function of the different centromeric domains was addressed. Transacting mutations affecting the kinetochore ( nuf2 ) central core domain ( mis6 ) and the heterochromatin domain ( rik1 ) were analyzed in live cells. In interphase, both nuf2 and mis6 caused declustering of centromeres from the spindle pole body whereas centromere clustering was normal in rik1 despite an apparent decondensation defect. The declustering of centromeres in mis6 cells correlated with loss the Ndc80 kinetochore marker protein from the centromeres. Interestingly the declustered centromeres were still restricted to the nuclear periphery thus revealing a kinetochore-independent peripheral localization mechanism for heterochromatin. Time-lapse microscopy of live mis6 and nuf2-1 mutant cells in mitosis showed similar severe misaggregation phenotypes whereas the rik1 mutants showed a mild cohesion defect. Thus, S. pombe centromeres have two distinguishable domains even during mitosis, and our functional analyses support the previous observations that the kinetochore/central core and the heterochromatin domains have distinct functions both in interphase and mitosis.

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