Current Genetics

, Volume 65, Issue 5, pp 1089–1098 | Cite as

Transcriptional silencing of centromere repeats by heterochromatin safeguards chromosome integrity

  • Takuro NakagawaEmail author
  • Akiko K. Okita


The centromere region of chromosomes consists of repetitive DNA sequences, and is, therefore, one of the fragile sites of chromosomes in many eukaryotes. In the core region, the histone H3 variant CENP-A forms centromere-specific nucleosomes that are required for kinetochore formation. In the pericentromeric region, histone H3 is methylated at lysine 9 (H3K9) and heterochromatin is formed. The transcription of pericentromeric repeats by RNA polymerase II is strictly repressed by heterochromatin. However, the role of the transcriptional silencing of the pericentromeric repeats remains largely unclear. Here, we focus on the chromosomal rearrangements that occur at the repetitive centromeres, and highlight our recent studies showing that transcriptional silencing by heterochromatin suppresses gross chromosomal rearrangements (GCRs) at centromeres in fission yeast. Inactivation of the Clr4 methyltransferase, which is essential for the H3K9 methylation, increased GCRs with breakpoints located in centromeric repeats. However, mutations in RNA polymerase II or the transcription factor Tfs1/TFIIS, which promotes restart of RNA polymerase II following its backtracking, reduced the GCRs that occur in the absence of Clr4, demonstrating that heterochromatin suppresses GCRs by repressing the Tfs1-dependent transcription. We also discuss how the transcriptional restart gives rise to chromosomal rearrangements at centromeres.


Pericentromere Heterochromatin Transcription DNA repeat Gross chromosomal rearrangement Fission yeast 



We would like to thank Dr. Yumiko Kubota, Dr. Faria Zafar, Jie Su, Crystal Tang, and Taishin Zaima for critical reading of this manuscript. This work was supported by a JSPS KAKENHI Grant JP18K06060 to T. N. We apologize to our colleagues whose important contributions to this field could not be cited due to space limitations.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of ScienceOsaka UniversityToyonakaJapan

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