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Biochimie. 2008 Jan;90(1):41-59. Epub 2007 Jul 24.

Protection against chromosome degradation at the telomeres.

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UMR CNRS no. 5239, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, IFR128 BioSciences Gerland-Lyon Sud, 46, allée d'Italie, 69364 Lyon, France.


Telomeres, the ends of linear chromosomes, contain repeated TG-rich sequences which, in dividing cells, must be constantly replenished in order to avoid chromosome erosion and, hence, genomic instability. Moreover, unprotected telomeres are prone to end-to-end fusions. Telomerase, a specialized reverse transcriptase with a built-in RNA template, or, in the absence of telomerase, alternative pathways of telomere maintenance are required for continuous cell proliferation in actively dividing cells as well as in cancerous cells emerging in deregulated somatic tissues. The challenge is to keep these free DNA ends masked from the nucleolytic attacks that will readily operate on any DNA double-strand break in the cell, while also allowing the recruitment of telomerase at intervals. Specialized telomeric proteins, as well as DNA repair and checkpoint proteins with a dual role in telomere maintenance and DNA damage signaling/repair, protect the telomere ends from degradation and some of them also function in telomerase recruitment or other aspects of telomere length homeostasis. Phosphorylation of some telomeric proteins by checkpoint protein kinases appears to represent a mode of regulation of telomeric mechanisms. Finally, recent studies have allowed starting to understand the coupling between progression of the replication forks through telomeric regions and the subsequent telomere replication by telomerase, as well as retroaction of telomerase in cis on the firing of nearby replication origins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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