The family of three structurally related autoantigens CENP-A (17 kD), CENP-B (80 kD), and CENP-C (140 kD) are the best characterized components of the human centromere, and they have been widely assumed to be components of the kinetochore. Kinetochore components are currently of great interest since this structure, which has long been known to be the site of microtubule attachment to the chromosome, is now believed to be a site of force production for anaphase chromosome movement. In the present study we have mapped the distribution of CENP-B in mitotic chromosomes by immunoelectron microscopy using two monospecific polyclonal antibodies together with a newly developed series of ultra-small 1-nm colloidal gold probes. We were surprised to find that greater than 95% of CENP-B is distributed throughout the centromeric heterochromatin beneath the kinetochore. This strongly supports other emerging evidence that CENP-B is specifically associated with alpha-satellite heterochromatin. Although in certain instances CENP-B can be seen to be concentrated immediately adjacent to the lower surface of the kinetochore, the outer plate remains virtually unlabeled. Similar analysis with a human autoimmune serum that recognizes all three CENP antigens reveals an additional unsuspected feature of kinetochore structure. In addition to recognizing antigens in the centromeric heterochromatin, the autoantiserum recognizes a concentration of antigens lateral to the kinetochore. This difference in staining pattern may reflect the presence of a "collar" of chromatin rich in CENP-C and/or CENP-A encircling the kinetochore plates.

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