Chromosome segregation during cell division is driven by mitotic spindle attachment to the centromere region on each chromosome. Centromeres form a protein scaffold defined by chromatin featuring CENP-A, a conserved histone H3 variant, in a manner largely independent of local DNA cis elements. CENP-A nucleosomes fulfill two essential criteria to epigenetically identify the centromere. They undergo self-templated duplication to reestablish centromeric chromatin following DNA replication. More importantly, CENP-A incorporated into centromeric chromatin is stably transmitted through consecutive cell division cycles. CENP-A nucleosomes have unique structural properties and binding partners that potentially explain their long lifetime in vivo. However, rather than a static building block, centromeric chromatin is dynamically regulated throughout the cell cycle, indicating that CENP-A stability is also controlled by external factors. We discuss recent insights and identify the outstanding questions on how dynamic control of the long-term stability of CENP-A ensures epigenetic centromere inheritance.

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