We have developed an assay in S. cerevisiae in which clones of cells that contain intact dicentric minichromosomes are visually distinct from those that have rearranged to monocentric minichromosomes. We find that the instability of dicentric minichromosomes is apparently due to mitotic nondisjunction accompanied by occasional structural rearrangements. Monocentric minichromosomes arising by rearrangement of the plasmid are rapidly selected in the population since dicentric minichromosomes depress the rate of cell division. We show that the ability of one centromere to compete with another in dicentric minichromosomes requires the presence of both of the conserved structural elements, CDE II and CDE III. Dicentric minichromosomes can be stabilized if one of the centromeres on the molecule is functionally hypomorphic because of mutations in CDE II even though these mutant centromeres are highly efficient in monocentric molecules. Stable dicentric molecules can also be produced by decreasing the space between two wild-type centromeres on the same molecule. These results suggest plausible pathways for changes in chromosome number that accompany evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology