Characterizing major kinetochore proteins in genus Zea supports meiotic drive model of centromere evolution
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Centromeric “meiotic drive” is a widely discussed model for explaining centromeric evolution. It posits that long arrays of centromeric DNA acquire protein-binding preferences that allow them to segregate more efficiently to progeny. The major centromeric binding proteins are Centromeric Histone H3 (CENH3) and Centromere Protein C (CENPC). We used maize (Zea mays) to test whether there is a correlation between lines with very long arrays of centromeric repeats (CentC) and unique CENH3 or CENPC sequence polymorphisms. We were surprised to find no discernable differences in CENH3 or CENPC protein sequence within the Section Zea. However, sequencing and expression data demonstrate clear evidence of polymorphism within the promoter region of a key Cenpc gene, and that this polymorphism might possibly affect the relative quantities of two CENPC isoforms. Our data seems to indicate that expression polymorphism can change the profile of centromere binding proteins and influence the abundance of centromeric repeats.