The role of CENH3 in centromere function

Following a close collaboration with the Chan lab and the demise of Simon Chan in the Summer of 2012, we have assimilated Chan lab researchers working on different aspects of centromeric function and its epigenetic determination. We are investigating the structural features, evolutionary constraints, and mechanisms that determine the interaction of centromeric histone H3 (CENH3) with the centromere and its instability in outcrosses resulting in parent-specific genome elimination. We are investigating the mechanisms of extreme chromosome fragmentation and reassembly that are associated to chromosome elimination.

Mohan Marimuthu

Mohan studies the early molecular events that lead to genome elimination in the zygote and early embryo resulting from crosses between centromere-compromised individuals and wild type.


Research aimed at applying the haploid induction system to cassava and banana, funded by BREAD, is continuing in the laboratory of Anne Britt at UCD. The effect of CENH3 variation in the Solanum genus on genome elimination is being studied in collaboration with the laboratory of Roger Chetelat.

Simon Chan

1974 – 2012

Simon started the CENH3 project when he joined UCD in 2006. His laboratory achieved a lot in the 6 years that followed. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been his friends and have worked with Simon. We miss him. Tributes to Simon Chan: Genome BiologyDepartment of Plant Biology

Publications on CENH3 and haploid induction by the original Chan lab, Comai lab, and collaborators
  1. Comai L, Tan EH. Haploid Induction and Genome Instability. Trends Genet. 2019 Nov;35(11):791-803. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2019.07.005. Epub 2019 Aug 14.PMID: 31421911 
  2. Kuppu S, Ron M, Marimuthu MPA, Li G, Huddleson A, Siddeek MH, Terry J, Buchner R, Shabek N, Comai L, Britt AB. A variety of changes, including CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletions, in CENH3 lead to haploid induction on outcrossing. Plant Biotechnol J. 2020 Feb 24. doi: 10.1111/pbi.13365. Online ahead of print.PMID: 32096293
  3. Maheshwari S, Ishii T, Brown CT, Houben A, Comai L. Centromere location in Arabidopsis is unaltered by extreme divergence in CENH3 protein sequence. Genome Res. 2017 Mar;27(3):471-478. doi: 10.1101/gr.214619.116. Epub 2017 Feb 21.PMID: 28223399
  4. Comai L, Maheshwari S, Marimuthu MPA ​Plant centromeres​.. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2017 Apr;36:158-167. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 Apr 13. PMID: 28411416
  5. Tan EH, Henry IM, Ravi M, et al. Catastrophic chromosomal restructuring during genome elimination in plants. Elife. 2015;4:e06516. Published 2015 May 15. doi:10.7554/eLife.06516
  6. Maheshwari S, Tan EH, West A, Franklin FC, Comai L, Chan SW. Naturally occurring differences in CENH3 affect chromosome segregation in zygotic mitosis of hybrids. PLoS Genet. 2015;11(1):e1004970. Published 2015 Jan 26. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004970
  7. Kuppu S, Tan EH, Nguyen H, Rodgers A, Comai L, Chan SW, Britt AB. Point Mutations in Centromeric Histone Induce Post-zygotic Incompatibility and Uniparental Inheritance. PLoS Genet. 2015 Sep 9;11(9):e1005494. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005494. eCollection 2015 Sep.PMID: 26352591
  8. Ravi M, Marimuthu MP, Tan EH, et al. A haploid genetics toolbox for Arabidopsis thaliana. Nat Commun. 2014;5:5334. Published 2014 Oct 31. doi:10.1038/ncomms6334
  9. Comai L. Genome elimination: translating basic research into a future tool for plant breeding. PLoS Biol. 2014;12(6):e1001876. Published 2014 Jun 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001876
  10. Melters DP, Bradnam KR, Young HA, et al. Comparative analysis of tandem repeats from hundreds of species reveals unique insights into centromere evolution. Genome Biol. 2013;14(1):R10. Published 2013 Jan 30. doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-1-r10
  11. Melters DP, Paliulis LV, Korf IF, Chan SW. Holocentric chromosomes: convergent evolution, meiotic adaptations, and genomic analysis. Chromosome Res. 2012;20(5):579‐593. doi:10.1007/s10577-012-9292-1
  12. Chan SW. In a battle between parental chromosomes, a failure to reload. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(33):13361‐13362. doi:10.1073/pnas.1110320108
  13. Ravi M, Shibata F, Ramahi JS, et al. Meiosis-specific loading of the centromere-specific histone CENH3 in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genet. 2011;7(6):e1002121. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002121
  14. Marimuthu MP, Jolivet S, Ravi M, et al. Synthetic clonal reproduction through seeds. Science. 2011;331(6019):876. doi:10.1126/science.1199682
  15. Chan SW. Chromosome engineering: power tools for plant genetics. Trends Biotechnol. 2010;28(12):605‐610. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2010.09.002
  16. Ravi M, Kwong PN, Menorca RM, et al. The rapidly evolving centromere-specific histone has stringent functional requirements in Arabidopsis thaliana. Genetics. 2010;186(2):461‐471. doi:10.1534/genetics.110.120337
  17. Ravi M, Chan SW. Haploid plants produced by centromere-mediated genome elimination. Nature. 2010;464(7288):615‐618. doi:10.1038/nature08842


This research was funded by a sub-award from CSIRO for the grant Captured Heterosis from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, by industry, by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF3068 (Chan research).

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