Indexed on: 25 Feb '11Published on: 25 Feb '11Published in: Nature Reviews Cancer
Mammalian telomeres are formed by tandem repeats of the TTAGGG sequence, which are progressively lost with each round of cell division. Telomere protection requires a minimal length of TTAGGG repeats to allow the binding of shelterin, which prevents the activation of a DNA damage response (DDR) at chromosome ends. Telomere elongation is carried out by telomerase. Telomerase can also act as a transcriptional modulator of the Wnt-β-catenin signalling pathway and has RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity. Dysfunctional telomeres can lead to either cancer or ageing pathologies depending on the integrity of the DDR. This Review discusses the role of telomeric proteins in cancer and ageing through modulating telomere length and protection, as well as regulating gene expression by binding to non-telomeric sites.