Reprogramming of human cells to pluripotency induces CENP-A chromatin depletion: human stem cell centromeres

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Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are central to development as they are the precursors of all cell types in the embryo. Therefore, maintaining a stable karyotype is essential, both for their physiological role as well as for their use in regenerative medicine. Karyotype abnormalities in PSCs in culture are common but the underlying causes remain unknown. To gain insight, we explore the composition of the centromere and kinetochore in human embryonic and induced PSCs. Centromere function depends on CENP-A nucleosome-defined chromatin. We show that while PSCs maintain abundant pools of CENP-A, CENP-C and CENP-T, these essential centromere components are strongly reduced at stem cell centromeres. Outer kinetochore recruitment is also impaired to a lesser extent, indicating an overall weaker kinetochore while the inner centromere protein Aurora B remains unaffected. We further show that, similar to differentiated human cells, CENP-A chromatin assembly in PSCs requires transition into G1 phase. Finally, reprogramming experiments indicate that reduction of centromeric CENP-A levels is an early event during dedifferentiation, coinciding with global chromatin remodelling. Our characterization of centromeres in human stem cells suggests a possible link between impaired centromere function and stem cell aneuploidies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200227
JournalOpen biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • CENP-A
  • Centromere
  • Chromatin
  • Human stem cells
  • iPSC
  • Kinetochore


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