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Molecular Strategies of Meiotic Cheating by Selfish Centromeres

Akera, Takashi, Trimm, Emily, Lampson, Michael A.
Cell 2019 v.178 no.5 pp. 1132-1144.e10
DNA, animal models, centromeres, eggs, females, histones, meiosis, mice, microtubules, phosphorylation
Asymmetric division in female meiosis creates selective pressure favoring selfish centromeres that bias their transmission to the egg. This centromere drive can explain the paradoxical rapid evolution of both centromere DNA and centromere-binding proteins despite conserved centromere function. Here, we define a molecular pathway linking expanded centromeres to histone phosphorylation and recruitment of microtubule destabilizing factors, leading to detachment of selfish centromeres from spindle microtubules that would direct them to the polar body. Exploiting centromere divergence between species, we show that selfish centromeres in two hybrid mouse models use the same molecular pathway but modulate it differently to enrich destabilizing factors. Our results indicate that increasing microtubule destabilizing activity is a general strategy for drive in both models, but centromeres have evolved distinct mechanisms to increase that activity. Furthermore, we show that drive depends on slowing meiotic progression, suggesting that selfish centromeres can be suppressed by regulating meiotic timing.