The histone H3 variant CENP-A is required for epigenetic specification of centromere identity through a loading mechanism independent of DNA sequence. Using multiphoton absorption and DNA cleavage at unique sites by I-SceI endonuclease, we demonstrate that CENP-A is rapidly recruited to double-strand breaks in DNA, along with three components (CENP-N, CENP-T, and CENP-U) associated with CENP-A at centromeres. The centromere-targeting domain of CENP-A is both necessary and sufficient for recruitment to double-strand breaks. CENP-A accumulation at DNA breaks is enhanced by active non-homologous end-joining but does not require DNA-PKcs or Ligase IV, and is independent of H2AX. Thus, induction of a double-strand break is sufficient to recruit CENP-A in human and mouse cells. Finally, since cell survival after radiation-induced DNA damage correlates with CENP-A expression level, we propose that CENP-A may have a function in DNA repair.
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