Kelly D. R. et al.
Centromeres are long, often repetitive regions of genomes that bind kinetochore proteins and ensure normal chromosome segregation. Engineering centromeres that function in vivo has proven to be difficult. Here we describe a tethering approach that activates functional maize centromeres at synthetic sequence arrays. A LexA-CENH3 fusion protein was used to recruit native Centromeric Histone H3 (CENH3) to long arrays of LexO repeats on a chromosome arm. Newly recruited CENH3 was sufficient to organize functional kinetochores that caused chromosome breakage, releasing chromosome fragments that were passed through meiosis and into progeny. Several fragments formed independent neochromosomes with centromeres localized over the LexO repeat arrays. The new centromeres were self-sustaining and transmitted neochromosomes to subsequent generations in the absence of the LexA-CENH3 activator. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using synthetic centromeres for karyotype engineering applications.