The human autoantigen CENP-C has been demonstrated by immunoelectron microscopy to be a component of the inner kinetochore plate. Here we have used antibodies raised against various portions of CENP-C to probe its function in mitosis. We show that nuclear microinjection of anti-CENP-C antibodies during interphase causes a transient arrest at the following metaphase. Injection of the same antibodies after the initiation of prophase, however, does not disrupt mitosis. Correspondingly, indirect immunofluorescence using affinity-purified human anti-CENP-C antibodies reveals that levels of CENP-C staining are reduced at centromeres in cells that were injected during interphase, but appear unaffected in cells which were injected during mitosis. Thus, we suggest that the injected antibodies cause metaphase arrest by reducing the amount of CENP-C at centromeres. Examination of kinetochores in metaphase-arrested cells by electron microscopy reveals that the number of trilaminar structures is reduced. More surprisingly, the few remaining kinetochores in these cells retain a normal trilaminar morphology but are significantly reduced in diameter. In cells arrested for extended periods, these small kinetochores become disrupted and apparently no longer bind microtubules. These observations are consistent with an involvement of CENP-C in kinetochore assembly, and suggest that CENP-C plays a critical role in both establishing and/or maintaining proper kinetochore size and stabilizing microtubule attachments. These findings also support the idea that proper assembly of kinetochores may be monitored by the cell cycle checkpoint preceding the transition to anaphase.

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