Drosophila telomeres: an exception providing new insights

Bioessays. 2008 Jan;30(1):25-37. doi: 10.1002/bies.20688.


Drosophila telomeres comprise DNA sequences that differ dramatically from those of other eukaryotes. Telomere functions, however, are similar to those found in telomerase-based telomeres, even though the underlying mechanisms may differ. Drosophila telomeres use arrays of retrotransposons to maintain chromosome length, while nearly all other eukaryotes rely on telomerase-generated short repeats. Regardless of the DNA sequence, several end-binding proteins are evolutionarily conserved. Away from the end, the Drosophila telomeric and subtelomeric DNA sequences are complexed with unique combinations of proteins that also modulate chromatin structure elsewhere in the genome. Maintaining and regulating the transcriptional activity of the telomeric retrotransposons in Drosophila requires specific chromatin structures and, while telomeric silencing spreads from the terminal repeats in yeast, the source of telomeric silencing in Drosophila is the subterminal arrays. However, the subterminal arrays in both species may be involved in telomere-telomere associations and/or communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Silencing
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Retroelements / genetics
  • Retroelements / physiology
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere / physiology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Retroelements