Mutations in the essential Drosophila melanogaster gene zw10 disrupt chromosome segregation, producing chromosomes that lag at the metaphase plate during anaphase of mitosis and both meiotic divisions. Recent evidence suggests that the product of this gene, DmZW10, acts at the kinetochore as part of a tension-sensing checkpoint at anaphase onset. DmZW10 displays an intriguing cell cycle–dependent intracellular distribution, apparently moving from the centromere/kinetochore at prometaphase to kinetochore microtubules at metaphase, and back to the centromere/kinetochore at anaphase (Williams, B.C., M. Gatti, and M.L. Goldberg. 1996. J. Cell Biol. 134:1127-1140).
We have identified ZW10-related proteins from widely diverse species with divergent centromere structures, including several Drosophilids, Caenorhabditis elegans, Arabidopsis thaliana, Mus musculus, and humans. Antibodies against the human ZW10 protein display a cell cycle–dependent staining pattern in HeLa cells strikingly similar to that previously observed for DmZW10 in dividing Drosophila cells. Injections of C. elegans ZW10 antisense RNA phenocopies important aspects of the mutant phenotype in Drosophila: these include a strong decrease in brood size, suggesting defects in meiosis or germline mitosis, a high percentage of lethality among the embryos that are produced, and the appearance of chromatin bridges at anaphase. These results indicate that at least some aspects of the functional role of the ZW10 protein in ensuring proper chromosome segregation are conserved across large evolutionary distances.