Humanization reveals pervasive incompatibility of yeast and human kinetochore components

Guðjón Ólafsson, Max A.B. Haase, Jef D. Boeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kinetochores assemble on centromeres to drive chromosome segregation in eukaryotic cells. Humans and budding yeast share most of the structural subunits of the kinetochore, whereas protein sequences have diverged considerably. The conserved centromeric histone H3 variant, CenH3 (CENP-A in humans and Cse4 in budding yeast), marks the site for kinetochore assembly in most species. A previous effort to complement Cse4 in yeast with human CENP-A was unsuccessful; however, co-complementation with the human core nucleosome was not attempted. Previously, our lab successfully humanized the core nucleosome in yeast; however, this severely affected cellular growth. We hypothesized that yeast Cse4 is incompatible with humanized nucleosomes and that the kinetochore represented a limiting factor for efficient histone humanization. Thus, we argued that including the human CENP-A or a Cse4–CENP-A chimera might improve histone humanization and facilitate kinetochore function in humanized yeast. The opposite was true: CENP-A expression reduced histone humanization efficiency, was toxic to yeast, and disrupted cell cycle progression and kinetochore function in wild-type (WT) cells. Suppressors of CENP-A toxicity included gene deletions of subunits of 3 conserved chromatin remodeling complexes, highlighting their role in CenH3 chromatin positioning. Finally, we attempted to complement the subunits of the NDC80 kinetochore complex, individually and in combination, without success, in contrast to a previous study indicating complementation by the human NDC80/ HEC1 gene. Our results suggest that limited protein sequence similarity between yeast and human components in this very complex structure leads to failure of complementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjkad260
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • CENP-A
  • centromere
  • histone variant
  • humanization
  • kinetochore
  • yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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