Abstract

Asymmetric cell division (ACD) produces daughter cells with separate distinct cell fates and is critical for the development and regulation of multicellular organisms. Epigenetic mechanisms are key players in cell fate determination. Centromeres, epigenetically specified loci defined by the presence of the histone H3-variant, centromere protein A (CENP-A), are essential for chromosome segregation at cell division. ACDs in stem cells and in oocyte meiosis have been proposed to be reliant on centromere integrity for the regulation of the non-random segregation of chromosomes. It has recently been shown that CENP-A is asymmetrically distributed between the centromeres of sister chromatids in male and female Drosophila germline stem cells (GSCs), with more CENP-A on sister chromatids to be segregated to the GSC. This imbalance in centromere strength correlates with the temporal and asymmetric assembly of the mitotic spindle and potentially orientates the cell to allow for biased sister chromatid retention in stem cells. In this essay, we discuss the recent evidence for asymmetric sister centromeres in stem cells. Thereafter, we discuss mechanistic avenues to establish this sister centromere asymmetry and how it ultimately might influence cell fate.

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