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Int Rev Cytol. 2002;218:37-67.

Telomeres in mammalian male germline cells.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Telomeres are terminal chromosomal domains that protect chromosome ends from degradation and fusion and promote complete replication of DNA. Telomeres are involved in the regulation of cellular replicative lifespan and tumorigenesis. These important functions of the telomeres have evoked high interest: numerous studies have resulted in a detailed description of telomere composition and structure in somatic cells. Much less is known about telomeres in germline cells. Emerging novel features and unique behavior of telomeres in the process of gamete differentiation suggest that they may have additional germline-specific function(s). This review describes recent studies revealing changes in the telomere organization in the course of differentiation from the germline stem cells to mature sperm in mammals. Similarities and differences between somatic and spermatogenic cells in telomere nuclear localization, protein composition, DNA length, telomerase activity, and chromatin structure are discussed. The exceptional features of the germline telomeres may be important for regulation of telomerase activity during spermatogenesis, homologous chromosome pairing during recombination, as well as for male pronucleus development and ordered chromosome withdrawal post-fertilization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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