The multiprotein kinetochore complex must assemble at a specific site on each chromosome to achieve accurate chromosome segregation. Defining the nature of the DNA-protein interactions that specify the position of the kinetochore and provide a scaffold for kinetochore formation remain key goals. Here, we demonstrate that the centromeric histone-fold-containing CENP-T-W and CENP-S-X complexes coassemble to form a stable CENP-T-W-S-X heterotetramer. High-resolution structural analysis of the individual complexes and the heterotetramer reveals similarity to other histone fold-containing complexes including canonical histones within a nucleosome. The CENP-T-W-S-X heterotetramer binds to and supercoils DNA. Mutants designed to compromise heterotetramerization or the DNA-protein contacts around the heterotetramer strongly reduce the DNA binding and supercoiling activities in vitro and compromise kinetochore assembly in vivo. These data suggest that the CENP-T-W-S-X complex forms a unique nucleosome-like structure to generate contacts with DNA, extending the “histone code” beyond canonical nucleosome proteins.Kinship Foundation. Searle Scholars ProgramNational Institute of General Medical Sciences (U.S.) (Grant GM088313
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