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Chromosoma. 2005 Sep;114(4):275-85. Epub 2005 Oct 15.

Telomere biology: integrating chromosomal end protection with DNA damage response.

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Brunel Institute of Cancer Genetics and Pharmacogenomics, Division of Biosciences, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, UK.


Telomeres play the key protective role at chromosomes. Many studies indicate that loss of telomere function causes activation of DNA damage response. Here, we review evidence supporting interdependence between telomere maintenance and DNA damage response and present a model in which these two pathways are combined into a single mechanism for protecting chromosomal integrity. Proteins directly involved in telomere maintenance and DNA damage response include Ku, DNA-PKcs, RAD51D, PARP-2, WRN and RAD50/MRE11/NBS1 complex. Since most of these proteins participate in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), this was perceived by many authors as a paradox, given that telomeres function to conceal natural DNA ends from mechanisms that detect and repair DSBs. However, we argue here that the key function of one particular DSB protein, Ku, is to prevent or control access of telomerase, the enzyme that synthesises telomeric sequences, to both internal DSBs and natural chromosomal ends. This view is supported by observations that Ku has a high affinity for DNA ends; it acts as a negative regulator of telomerase and that telomerase itself can target internal DSBs. Ku then directs other DSB repair/telomere maintenance proteins to either repair DSBs at internal chromosomal sites or prevent uncontrolled elongation of telomeres by telomerase. This model eliminates the above paradox and provides a testable scenario in which the role of DSB repair proteins is to protect chromosomal integrity by balancing repair activities and telomere maintenance. In our model, a close association between telomeres and different DNA damage response factors is not an unexpected event, but rather a logical result of chromosomal integrity maintenance activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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