Telomeres, histone code, and DNA damage response

S. Misri, S. Pandita, R. Kumar, T. K. Pandita

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Genomic stability is maintained by telomeres, the end terminal structures that protect chromosomes from fusion or degradation. Shortening or loss of telomeric repeats or altered telomere chromatin structure is correlated with telomere dysfunction such as chromosome end-to-end associations that could lead to genomic instability and gene amplification. The structure at the end of telomeres is such that its DNA differs from DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) to avoid nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ), which is accomplished by forming a unique higher order nucleoprotein structure. Telomeres are attached to the nuclear matrix and have a unique chromatin structure. Whether this special structure is maintained by specific chromatin changes is yet to be thoroughly investigated. Chromatin modifications implicated in transcriptional regulation are thought to be the result of a code on the histone proteins (histone code). This code, involving phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation, ubiquitylation, and sumoylation of histones, is believed to regulate chromatin accessibility either by disrupting chromatin contacts or by recruiting non-histone proteins to chromatin. The histone code in which distinct histone tail-protein interactions promote engagement may be the deciding factor for choosing specific DSB repair pathways. Recent evidence suggests that such mechanisms are involved in DNA damage detection and repair. Altered telomere chromatin structure has been linked to defective DNA damage response (DDR), and eukaryotic cells have evolved DDR mechanisms utilizing proficient DNA repair and cell cycle checkpoints in order to maintain genomic stability. Recent studies suggest that chromatin modifying factors play a critical role in the maintenance of genomic stability. This review will summarize the role of DNA damage repair proteins specifically ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) and its effectors and the telomere complex in maintaining genome stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
JournalCytogenetic and Genome Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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