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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular characterization of inter-telomere and intra-telomere mutations in human ALT cells.

Telomeres in most immortal cells are maintained by the enzyme telomerase, allowing cells to divide indefinitely. Some telomerase-negative tumors and immortal cell lines maintain long heterogeneous telomeres by the ALT (alternative lengthening of telomeres) mechanism; such tumors are expected to be resistant to anti-telomerase drug therapies. Occasionally telomerase-negative Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants survive, and 10% of them (type II survivors) have unstable telomeres. As in human ALT+ cells, short telomeres in yeast type II survivors lengthen abruptly; in yeast, this is dependent on the recombination proteins Rad52p and Rad50p. In human cells, ALT involves copying of sequence from a donor to a recipient telomere. We have characterized for the first time a class of complex telomere mutations seen only in ALT+ cells. The mutant telomeres are defined by the replacement of the progenitor telomere at a discrete point (fusion point) with a different telomere repeat array. Among 19 characterized fusion points, one occurred within the first six repeats of the telomere, indicating that these recombination-like events can occur anywhere within the telomere. One mutant telomere may have been involved in a secondary recombination-like mutation event, suggesting that these mutations are sporadic but ongoing in ALT+ cells. We also identified simple intra-allelic mutations at high frequency, which evidently contribute to telomere instability in ALT+ cells.[1]


  1. Molecular characterization of inter-telomere and intra-telomere mutations in human ALT cells. Varley, H., Pickett, H.A., Foxon, J.L., Reddel, R.R., Royle, N.J. Nat. Genet. (2002) [Pubmed]
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