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Histone Modifications within the Human X Centromere Region

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006602
  • Research Article
  • Genetics And Genomics/Chromosome Biology
  • Genetics And Genomics/Epigenetics
  • Genetics And Genomics/Genomics
  • Biology


Human centromeres are multi-megabase regions of highly ordered arrays of alpha satellite DNA that are separated from chromosome arms by unordered alpha satellite monomers and other repetitive elements. Complexities in assembling such large repetitive regions have limited detailed studies of centromeric chromatin organization. However, a genomic map of the human X centromere has provided new opportunities to explore genomic architecture of a complex locus. We used ChIP to examine the distribution of modified histones within centromere regions of multiple X chromosomes. Methylation of H3 at lysine 4 coincided with DXZ1 higher order alpha satellite, the site of CENP-A localization. Heterochromatic histone modifications were distributed across the 400–500 kb pericentromeric regions. The large arrays of alpha satellite and gamma satellite DNA were enriched for both euchromatic and heterochromatic modifications, implying that some pericentromeric repeats have multiple chromatin characteristics. Partial truncation of the X centromere resulted in reduction in the size of the CENP-A/Cenp-A domain and increased heterochromatic modifications in the flanking pericentromere. Although the deletion removed ∼1/3 of centromeric DNA, the ratio of CENP-A to alpha satellite array size was maintained in the same proportion, suggesting that a limited, but defined linear region of the centromeric DNA is necessary for kinetochore assembly. Our results indicate that the human X centromere contains multiple types of chromatin, is organized similarly to smaller eukaryotic centromeres, and responds to structural changes by expanding or contracting domains.

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