We have detected and begun to characterize a 17-kD centromere-specific protein, CENP-A (Earnshaw, W. C., and N. Rothfield, 1985, Chromosoma., 91:313-321). Sera from several humans with CREST scleroderma autoimmune disease (CREST: calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, esophageal dsymotility, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia) bind this protein in immunoblot assays of HeLa whole cell or nuclear extracts. We have affinity purified the anti-17-kD centromere protein (anti-CENP-A) specific antibodies from immunoblots of HeLa nuclear protein. The antibodies react with epitopes present on CENP-A derived from humans but apparently do not recognize specific epitopes in either rat or chicken nuclei. Only human nuclear protein is CENP-A positive by immunoblot. Furthermore, human cells show localization of anti-CENP-A antibody to centromeres by immunofluorescence microscopy, whereas rat cells do not. On extraction from the nucleus, CENP-A copurifies with core histones and with nucleosome core particles. We conclude that this centromere-specific protein is a histone-like component of chromatin. The data suggest that CENP-A functions as a centromere-specific core histone.

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