Alternatives to telomerase: keeping linear chromosomes via telomeric circles

FEBS Lett. 2004 Jun 1;567(1):142-6. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2004.04.058.


Recombination is often capable of lengthening telomeres in situations where telomerase is absent. This recombinational telomere maintenance is often accompanied by telomeric instability including the accumulation of extrachromosomal telomeric circles (t-circles). Recent results of in vivo and in vitro experiments have suggested that t-circles can lead to the production of extended stretches of telomeric DNA by serving as templates for rolling-circle synthesis. This implies that t-circles can provide an efficient means of telomere elongation. The existence of t-circles in both nuclear and mitochondrial compartments of distantly related species suggests that they may be important contributors to an evolutionary conserved telomerase-independent mechanism of maintenance of telomeric tandem arrays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes / chemistry*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Telomerase / chemistry*
  • Telomerase / metabolism
  • Telomerase / physiology*
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere / ultrastructure


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Heterochromatin
  • Telomerase