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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(7):e1003639. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003639. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Defective repair of oxidative base lesions by the DNA glycosylase Nth1 associates with multiple telomere defects.

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Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Telomeres are chromosome end structures and are essential for maintenance of genome stability. Highly repetitive telomere sequences appear to be susceptible to oxidative stress-induced damage. Oxidation may therefore have a severe impact on telomere integrity and function. A wide spectrum of oxidative pyrimidine-derivatives has been reported, including thymine glycol (Tg), that are primarily removed by a DNA glycosylase, Endonuclease III-like protein 1 (Nth1). Here, we investigate the effect of Nth1 deficiency on telomere integrity in mice. Nth1 null (Nth1(-/-) ) mouse tissues and primary MEFs harbor higher levels of Endonuclease III-sensitive DNA lesions at telomeric repeats, in comparison to a non-telomeric locus. Furthermore, oxidative DNA damage induced by acute exposure to an oxidant is repaired slowly at telomeres in Nth1(-/-) MEFs. Although telomere length is not affected in the hematopoietic tissues of Nth1(-/-) adult mice, telomeres suffer from attrition and increased recombination and DNA damage foci formation in Nth1(-/-) bone marrow cells that are stimulated ex vivo in the presence of 20% oxygen. Nth1 deficiency also enhances telomere fragility in mice. Lastly, in a telomerase null background, Nth1(-/-) bone marrow cells undergo severe telomere loss at some chromosome ends and cell apoptosis upon replicative stress. These results suggest that Nth1 plays an important role in telomere maintenance and base repair against oxidative stress-induced base modifications. The fact that telomerase deficiency can exacerbate telomere shortening in Nth1 deficient mouse cells supports that base excision repair cooperates with telomerase to maintain telomere integrity.

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