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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2010 Mar;11(3):171-81. doi: 10.1038/nrm2848. Epub 2010 Feb 3.

Telomeres: protecting chromosomes against genome instability.

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  • 1The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The natural ends of linear chromosomes require unique genetic and structural adaptations to facilitate the protection of genetic material. This is achieved by the sequestration of the telomeric sequence into a protective nucleoprotein cap that masks the ends from constitutive exposure to the DNA damage response machinery. When telomeres are unmasked, genome instability arises. Balancing capping requirements with telomere replication and the enzymatic processing steps that are obligatory for telomere function is a complex problem. Telomeric proteins and their interacting factors create an environment at chromosome ends that inhibits DNA repair; however, the repair machinery is essential for proper telomere function.

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