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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 15;6(2):e17036. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017036.

HP1-mediated formation of alternative lengthening of telomeres-associated PML bodies requires HIRA but not ASF1a.

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  • 1Cancer Research Unit, Children's Medical Research Institute, Westmead, New South Wales, Australia.

Abstract

Approximately 10% of cancers use recombination-mediated Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) instead of telomerase to prevent telomere shortening. A characteristic of cells that utilize ALT is the presence of ALT-associated PML nuclear bodies (APBs) containing (TTAGGG)n DNA, telomere binding proteins, DNA recombination proteins, and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1). The function of APBs is unknown and it is possible that they are functionally heterogeneous. Most ALT cells lack functional p53, and restoration of the p53/p21 pathway in these cells results in growth arrest/senescence and a substantial increase in the number of large APBs that is dependent on two HP1 isoforms, HP1α and HP1γ. Here we investigated the mechanism of HP1-mediated APB formation, and found that histone chaperones, HIRA and ASF1a, are present in APBs following activation of the p53/p21 pathway in ALT cells. HIRA and ASF1a were also found to colocalize inside PML bodies in normal fibroblasts approaching senescence, providing evidence for the existence of a senescence-associated ASF1a/HIRA complex inside PML bodies, consistent with a role for these proteins in induction of senescence in both normal and ALT cells. Moreover, knockdown of HIRA but not ASF1a significantly reduced p53-mediated induction of large APBs, with a concomitant reduction of large HP1 foci. We conclude that HIRA, in addition to its physical and functional association with ASF1a, plays a unique, ASF1a-independent role, which is required for the localization of HP1 to PML bodies and thus for APB formation.

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