Human intrachromosomal telomeric-like repeats: sequence organization and mechanisms of origin

Chromosoma. 2001 May;110(2):75-82. doi: 10.1007/s004120100135.


The intrachromosomal location of (T2AG3)n telomeric sequences has been reported in several species. It was proposed that interstitial telomeres (ITs) originated through telomeric fusion of ancestral chromosomes. However, the data so far obtained derive mainly from cytogenetic observations. Cloning and database searching of human IT sequences allowed us to identify three classes: (i) short ITs, composed of few, essentially exact T2AG3 units; (ii) subtelomeric ITs, composed of larger arrays (several hundred base pairs) including many degenerate units within subtelomeric domains; (iii) fusion ITs, in which two extended stretches of telomeric repeats are oriented head-to-head. The number of short ITs is over 50 and subtelomeric ITs are probably present at all chromosomal ends. Surprisingly, the telomeric sequence in 2q13 remains the only fusion IT so far characterized, and evidence presented here suggests that another member of this class may be present in 1q41. Different molecular mechanisms generated the three classes. In particular, several short ITs interrupt precisely repetitive elements or are flanked by direct repeats of 10-41 bp, and are conserved in gorilla and chimpanzee. These features strongly suggest that telomeric repeats were inserted at intrachromosomal sites through the repair of double-strand breaks that occurred in the germline during evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Human / ultrastructure
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • DNA Repair
  • Genomic Library
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Metaphase / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Telomere / genetics*


  • DNA Primers

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF236881
  • GENBANK/AF236882
  • GENBANK/AF236883
  • GENBANK/AF236884
  • GENBANK/AF236885
  • GENBANK/AF236886
  • GENBANK/AF334476
  • GENBANK/AF334477
  • GENBANK/AF334478
  • GENBANK/AF334479
  • GENBANK/AF334480
  • GENBANK/AF334481