The structures of specific chromosome regions, centromeres and telomeres, present a number of puzzles. As functions performed by these regions are ubiquitous and essential, their DNA, proteins and chromatin structure are expected to be conserved. Recent studies of centromeric DNA from human, Drosophila and plant species have demonstrated that a hidden universal centromere-specific sequence is highly unlikely. The DNA of telomeres is more conserved consisting of a tandemly repeated 6-8 bp Arabidopsis-like sequence in a majority of organisms as diverse as protozoan, fungi, mammals and plants. However, there are alternatives to short DNA repeats at the ends of chromosomes and for telomere elongation by telomerase. Here we focus on the similarities and diversity that exist among the structural elements, DNA sequences and proteins, that make up terminal domains (telomeres and subtelomeres), and how organisms use these in different ways to fulfil the functions of end-replication and end-protection.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.