The mechanism of mitotic chromosome condensation is poorly understood, but even less is known about the mechanism of formation of the primary constriction, or centromere. A proteomic analysis of mitotic chromosome scaffolds led to the identification of CENP-V, a novel kinetochore protein related to a bacterial enzyme that detoxifies formaldehyde, a by-product of histone demethylation in eukaryotic cells. Overexpression of CENP-V leads to hypercondensation of pericentromeric heterochromatin, a phenotype that is abolished by mutations in the putative catalytic site. CENP-V depletion in HeLa cells leads to abnormal expansion of the primary constriction of mitotic chromosomes, mislocalization and destabilization of the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC) and alterations in the distribution of H3K9me3 in interphase nucleoplasm. CENP-V-depleted cells suffer defects in chromosome alignment in metaphase, lagging chromosomes in anaphase, failure of cytokinesis and rapid cell death. CENP-V provides a novel link between centromeric chromatin, the primary constriction and the CPC.