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Chromosoma. 2012 Apr;121(2):117-30. doi: 10.1007/s00412-011-0357-2. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Similarities and differences between "uncapped" telomeres and DNA double-strand breaks.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Telomeric DNA is present at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes and is bound by telomere "capping" proteins, which are the (Cdc13-Stn1-Ten1) CST complex, Ku (Yku70-Yku80), and Rap1-Rif1-Rif2 in budding yeast. Inactivation of any of these complexes causes telomere "uncapping," stimulating a DNA damage response (DDR) that frequently involves resection of telomeric DNA and stimulates cell cycle arrest. This is presumed to occur because telomeres resemble one half of a DNA double-strand break (DSB). In this review, we outline the DDR that occurs at DSBs and compare it to the DDR occurring at uncapped telomeres, in both budding yeast and metazoans. We give particular attention to the resection of DSBs in budding yeast by Mre11-Xrs2-Rad50 (MRX), Sgs1/Dna2, and Exo1 and compare their roles at DSBs and uncapped telomeres. We also discuss how resection uncapped telomeres in budding yeast is promoted by the by 9-1-1 complex (Rad17-Mec3-Ddc1), to illustrate how analysis of uncapped telomeres can serve as a model for the DDR elsewhere in the genome. Finally, we discuss the role of the helicase Pif1 and its requirement for resection of uncapped telomeres, but not DSBs. Pif1 has roles in DNA replication and mammalian and plant CST complexes have been identified and have roles in global genome replication. Based on these observations, we suggest that while the DDR at uncapped telomeres is partially due to their resemblance to a DSB, it may also be partially due to defective DNA replication. Specifically, we propose that the budding yeast CST complex has dual roles to inhibit a DSB-like DDR initiated by Exo1 and a replication-associated DDR initiated by Pif1. If true, this would suggest that the mammalian CST complex inhibits a Pif1-dependent DDR.

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