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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2014 Mar;71(5):847-65. doi: 10.1007/s00018-013-1469-z. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

If the cap fits, wear it: an overview of telomeric structures over evolution.

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Gregor Mendel Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bohrgasse 3, 1030, Vienna, Austria.


Genome organization into linear chromosomes likely represents an important evolutionary innovation that has permitted the development of the sexual life cycle; this process has consequently advanced nuclear expansion and increased complexity of eukaryotic genomes. Chromosome linearity, however, poses a major challenge to the internal cellular machinery. The need to efficiently recognize and repair DNA double-strand breaks that occur as a consequence of DNA damage presents a constant threat to native chromosome ends known as telomeres. In this review, we present a comparative survey of various solutions to the end protection problem, maintaining an emphasis on DNA structure. This begins with telomeric structures derived from a subset of prokaryotes, mitochondria, and viruses, and will progress into the typical telomere structure exhibited by higher organisms containing TTAGG-like tandem sequences. We next examine non-canonical telomeres from Drosophila melanogaster, which comprise arrays of retrotransposons. Finally, we discuss telomeric structures in evolution and possible switches between canonical and non-canonical solutions to chromosome end protection.

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