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IUBMB Life. 2003 Aug;55(8):443-9.

Telomere higher-order structure and genomic instability.

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University of Miami School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 1011 NW 15 Street, Rm. 210 (R629), Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Telomeres, nucleoprotein complexes at the end of eukaryotic chromosomes, have vital roles in chromosome integrity. Telomere chromatin structure is both intricate and dynamic allowing for a variety of responses to several stimuli. A critical determinant in telomere structure is the G-strand overhang. Facilitated by telomeric proteins, the G-strand overhang stabilizes telomere higher-order assemblies most likely by adopting unusual DNA structures. These structures influence activities that occur at the chromosome end. Dysfunctional telomeres induce signals resulting in cell growth arrest or death. To overcome telomere dysfunction, cancer cells activate the DNA polymerase, telomerase. The presence of telomerase at the telomere may establish a particular telomeric state. If the chromosome ends of cancer and normal cells exist in different states, cancer-specific telomere structures would offer a unique chemotherapeutic target.

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