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Repurposing of synaptonemal complex proteins for kinetochores in Kinetoplastida

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Chromosome segregation in eukaryotes is driven by the kinetochore, a macromolecular complex that connects centromeric DNA to microtubules of the spindle apparatus. Kinetochores in well-studied model eukaryotes consist of a core set of proteins that are broadly conserved among distant eukaryotic phyla. By contrast, unicellular flagellates of the class Kinetoplastida have a unique set of 36 kinetochore components. The evolutionary origin and history of these kinetochores remain unknown. Here, we report evidence of homology between axial element components of the synaptonemal complex and three kinetoplastid kinetochore proteins KKT16-18. The synaptonemal complex is a zipper-like structure that assembles between homologous chromosomes during meiosis to promote recombination. By using sensitive homology detection protocols, we identify divergent orthologues of KKT16-18 in most eukaryotic supergroups, including experimentally established chromosomal axis components, such as Red1 and Rec10 in budding and fission yeast, ASY3-4 in plants and SYCP2-3 in vertebrates. Furthermore, we found 12 recurrent duplications within this ancient eukaryotic SYCP2–3 gene family, providing opportunities for new functional complexes to arise, including KKT16-18 in the kinetoplastid parasite Trypanosoma brucei. We propose the kinetoplastid kinetochore system evolved by repurposing meiotic components of the chromosome synapsis and homologous recombination machinery that were already present in early eukaryotes.



Research, Research articles, kinetochore, Kinetoplastida, synaptonemal complex, Trypanosoma brucei, recurrent evolution, SYCP2

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Open Biology

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The Royal Society
Wellcome Trust (210622/Z/18/Z, 214298/Z)
Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds (PhD Fellowship)
Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge (Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowship)