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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 2;102(31):10864-9. Epub 2005 Jul 25.

Human POT1 disrupts telomeric G-quadruplexes allowing telomerase extension in vitro.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0215, USA.


The POT1 (protection of telomeres 1) protein binds the ssDNA overhangs at the ends of chromosomes in diverse eukaryotes. POT1 is essential for chromosome end-protection, as best demonstrated in fission yeast. In human cells, hPOT1 is also involved in telomere-length regulation. We now show that telomeric oligonucleotides, such as d[GGG(TTAGGG)(3)], which form intramolecular G-quadruplexes through Hoogsteen base-pairing, serve as only marginal primers for extension by recombinant human telomerase; telomerase stalls after every nucleotide addition. Addition of hPOT1 to the reaction restores the normal processive elongation pattern seen with primers that cannot form G-quadruplexes. hPOT1 does not act catalytically but, instead, forms a stoichiometric complex with the DNA, freeing its 3' tail. An antisense oligonucleotide, which base-pairs near the 5' end of the telomeric sequence, leaving a telomerase-extendable 3' tail, duplicates the effect of hPOT1 on activation of G-quadruplex primers. Thus, hPOT1 may function simply by trapping the unfolded forms of these telomeric primers in an equilibrium population. We propose an additional role for hPOT1 in telomere maintenance: disrupting G-quadruplex structures in telomeric DNA, thereby allowing proper elongation by telomerase.

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