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Mutat Res. 2012 Jan 3;729(1-2):90-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

Dysfunctional telomeres in human BRCA2 mutated breast tumors and cell lines.

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Cancer Research Laboratory, BioMedical Centre, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.


In the present study the possible involvement of telomeres in chromosomal instability of breast tumors and cell lines from BRCA2 mutation carriers was examined. Breast tumors from BRCA2 mutation carriers showed significantly higher frequency of chromosome end-to-end fusions (CEFs) than tumors from non-carriers despite normal telomere DNA content. Frequent CEFs were also found in four different BRCA2 heterozygous breast epithelial cell lines, occasionally with telomere signal at the fusion point, indicating telomere capping defects. Extrachromosomal telomeric repeat (ECTR) DNA was frequently found scattered around metaphase chromosomes and interstitial telomere sequences (ITSs) were also common. Telomere sister chromatid exchanges (T-SCEs), characteristic of cells using alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), were frequently detected in all heterozygous BRCA2 cell lines as well as the two ALT positive cell lines tested. Even though T-SCE frequency was similar in BRCA2 heterozygous and ALT positive cell lines they differed in single telomere signal loss and ITSs. Chromatid type alterations were more prominent in the BRCA2 heterozygous cell lines that may have propensity for telomere based chromosome healing. Telomere dysfunction-induced foci (TIFs) formation, identified by co-localization of telomeres and γ-H2AX, supported telomere associated DNA damage response in BRCA2 heterozygous cell lines. TIFs were found in interphase nuclei, at chromosome ends, ITSs and ECTR DNA. In conclusion, our results suggest that BRCA2 has an important role in telomere stabilization by repressing CEFs through telomere capping and the prevention of telomere loss by replication stabilization.

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