The centromere appears as a single constriction at mitotic metaphase in most eukaryotic chromosomes. Holokinetic chromosomes are the exception to this rule because they do not show any centromeric constrictions. Holokinetic chromosomes are usually forgotten in most reviews about centromeres, despite their presence in a number of animal and plant species. They are generally linked to very intriguing and unusual mechanisms of mitosis and meiosis. Holokinetic chromosomes differ from monocentric chromosomes not only in the extension of the kinetochore plate, but also in many other peculiar karyological features, which could be understood as the ‘holokinetic syndrome’ that is reviewed in detail. Together with holokinetic chromosomes we review neocentromeric activity, a similarly intriguing case of regions able to pull chromosomes towards the poles without showing the main components reported to be essential to centromeric function. A neocentromere is a chromosomal region different from the true centromere in structure, DNA sequence and location, but is able to lead chromosomes to the cell poles in special circumstances. Neocentromeres have been reported in plants and animals showing different features. Both in humans and Drosophila, neocentric activity appears in somatic cells with defective chromosomes lacking a functional centromere. In most cases in plants, neocentromeres appear in chromosomes which have normal centromeres, but are active only during meiosis. Because of examples such as spontaneous or induced neocentromeres and holokinetic chromosomes, it is becoming less surprising that different structures and DNA sequences of centromeres appear in evolution.

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