C. elegans telomeres contain G-strand and C-strand overhangs that are bound by distinct proteins

Cell. 2008 Mar 7;132(5):745-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2007.12.039.


Single-strand extensions of the G strand of telomeres are known to be critical for chromosome-end protection and length regulation. Here, we report that in C. elegans, chromosome termini possess 3' G-strand overhangs as well as 5' C-strand overhangs. C tails are as abundant as G tails and are generated by a well-regulated process. These two classes of overhangs are bound by two single-stranded DNA binding proteins, CeOB1 and CeOB2, which exhibit specificity for G-rich or C-rich telomeric DNA. Strains of worms deleted for CeOB1 have elongated telomeres as well as extended G tails, whereas CeOB2 deficiency leads to telomere-length heterogeneity. Both CeOB1 and CeOB2 contain OB (oligo-saccharide/oligo-nucleotide binding) folds, which exhibit structural similarity to the second and first OB folds of the mammalian telomere binding protein hPOT1, respectively. Our results suggest that C. elegans telomere homeostasis relies on a novel mechanism that involves 5' and 3' single-stranded termini.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • DNA, Helminth / metabolism
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Structural Homology, Protein
  • Telomere / chemistry
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere / ultrastructure


  • DNA, Helminth
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA-Binding Proteins