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Cytogenet Genome Res. 2008;122(3-4):365-73. doi: 10.1159/000167824. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

Telomere capping and cellular checkpoints: clues from fruit flies.

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Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Università di Roma La Sapienza, Roma, Italy.


In most organisms, telomeres consist of repetitive G-rich sequences that are elongated by a specific reverse transcriptase, telomerase. A large number of proteins are recruited by these terminal repeats, forming specialized structures that regulate telomerase activity and protect telomeres from degradation and recombination. Drosophila lacks telomerase and telomere length is maintained by transposition of three specialized retrotransposons. In addition, unlike yeast and mammals, Drosophila telomeres are epigenetically determined, sequence-independent structures. However, several proteins required for Drosophila telomere behavior are evolutionarily conserved. These include the Mre11-Rad50-Nbs (MRN) complex and the Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) kinase, which are required to prevent telomeric fusions. In addition, recent studies have provided evidence that Drosophila uncapped telomeres elicit a DNA damage response (DDR) just as dysfunctional yeast and human telomeres. Uncapped Drosophila telomeres also activate the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) by recruiting the SAC kinase BubR1. Telomere-induced DDR and SAC both require the wild type function of the MRN complex. In addition, while DDR is mediated by ATR kinase, SAC activation requires both the ATM and ATR activities. These results indicate that the DNA repair systems play multiple roles at Drosophila telomeres, highlighting the importance of this model organism for investigations on the relationships between DNA repair and telomere maintenance.

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