Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Michael A. Lampson


Selfish centromere DNA sequences bias their transmission to the egg in female meiosis. Evolutionary theory suggests that centromere proteins evolve to suppress costs of this “centromere drive”. In hybrid mouse models with genetically different maternal and paternal centromeres, selfish centromere DNA exploits a kinetochore pathway to recruit microtubule- destabilizing proteins that act as drive effectors. We show that such functional differences are suppressed by a parallel pathway for effector recruitment by heterochromatin, which is similar between centromeres in this system. Disrupting the kinetochore pathway with a divergent allele of CENP-C reduces functional differences between centromeres, whereas disrupting heterochromatin by CENP-B deletion amplifies the differences. Molecular evolution analyses using newly sequenced Murinae genomes identify adaptive evolution in proteins in both pathways. We propose that centromere proteins have recurrently evolved to minimize the kinetochore pathway, which is exploited by selfish DNA, relative to the heterochromatin pathway that equalizes centromeres, while maintaining essential functions.

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