Telomeres and DNA double-strand breaks: Ever the twain shall meet?

S. M. Bailey, M. N. Cornforth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Telomeres were first recognized as a bona fide constituent of the chromosome based on their inability to rejoin with broken chromosome ends produced by radiation. Today, we recognize two essential and interrelated properties of telomeres. They circumvent the so-called end-replication problem faced by genomes composed of linear chromosomes, which erode from their termini with each successive cell division. Equally vital is the end-capping function that telomeres provide, which is necessary to deter chromosome ends from illicit recombination. This latter property is critical in facilitating the distinction between the naturally occurring DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) found at chromosome ends (i.e., telomeres) and DSBs produced by exogenous agents. Here we discuss, in a brief historical narrative, key discoveries that led investigators to appreciate the unique properties of telomeres in protecting chromosome ends, and the consequences of telomere dysfunction, particularly as related to recombination involving radiation-induced DSBs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2956-2964
Number of pages9
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • DNA repair
  • Double-strand breaks
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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