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Annu Rev Genet. 2010;44:243-69. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-102108-134841.

Telomeric strategies: means to an end.

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Telomere Biology Laboratory, Cancer Research UK, London Research Institute, London WC2A 3PX, United Kingdom.


What really defines a telomere? Telomere literally is an amalgamation of the Greek words "telos," meaning end, and "mer," meaning part. In practice, it refers to the extremities of linear chromosomes. The defining functions of chromosome extremities can be summarized in two main categories. First, chromosome ends trick the cell into not identifying them as damage-induced double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs). An internal DSB immediately triggers cell-cycle arrest and is repaired to ensure that genome integrity remains undisturbed. Chromosome ends disguise themselves using assorted strategies, tailored to evade specific cellular responses. The second defining function of chromosome extremities involves self-preservation. Due to the inherent limitations of the canonical replication machinery, chromosomes gradually lose terminal DNA with successive rounds of replication. Telomeres have evolved tactics to circumvent this loss and to preserve themselves. This review focuses on highlights of telomeric strategies surrounding these two primary tasks, and finishes by discussing evidence that the full telomeric functional repertoire has yet to be defined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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