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Cytogenet Genome Res. 2008;122(3-4):281-91. doi: 10.1159/000167814. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

Telomere length maintenance--an ALTernative mechanism.

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Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


The Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) mechanism is utilised by approximately 10% of human tumours and a higher proportion of some types of sarcomas. ALT+ cell lines and tumours show heterogeneous telomere length, extra-chromosomal circular and linear telomeric DNA, ALT associated promyelocytic bodies (APBs), a high frequency of post-replication exchanges in telomeres (designated as telomere-sister chromatid exchanges, T-SCE) and high instability at a GC-rich minisatellite, MS32 (D1S8). It is clear that there is a link between the minisatellite instability and the mechanism that underpins ALT, however currently the nature of this relationship is uncertain. Single molecule analysis of telomeric DNA from ALT+ cell lines and tumours has revealed complex telomere mutations that have not been seen in cell lines or tumours that express telomerase. These complex telomere mutations cannot be explained by T-SCE but must arise by another inter-molecular process. The break-induced replication (BIR) model that may explain the observed high frequency of T-SCE and the presence of complex telomere mutations is reviewed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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