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Curr Biol. 1998 May 21;8(11):657-60.

Telomere maintenance is dependent on activities required for end repair of double-strand breaks.

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Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Telomeres are functionally distinct from ends generated by chromosome breakage, in that telomeres, unlike double-strand breaks, are insulated from recombination with other chromosomal termini [1]. We report that the Ku heterodimer and the Rad50/Mre11/Xrs2 complex, both of which are required for repair of double-strand breaks [2-5], have separate roles in normal telomere maintenance in yeast. Using epistasis analysis, we show that the Ku end-binding complex defined a third telomere-associated activity, required in parallel with telomerase [6] and Cdc13, a protein binding the single-strand portion of telomere DNA [7,8]. Furthermore, loss of Ku function altered the expression of telomere-located genes, indicative of a disruption of telomeric chromatin. These data suggest that the Ku complex and the Cdc13 protein function as terminus-binding factors, contributing distinct roles in chromosome end protection. In contrast, MRE11 and RAD50 were required for the telomerase-mediated pathway, rather than for telomeric end protection; we propose that this complex functions to prepare DNA ends for telomerase to replicate. These results suggest that as a part of normal telomere maintenance, telomeres are identified as double-strand breaks, with additional mechanisms required to prevent telomere recombination. Ku, Cdc13 and telomerase define three epistasis groups required in parallel for telomere maintenance.

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