Developmental studies of Xenopus shelterin complexes: the message to reset telomere length is already present in the egg

FASEB J. 2009 Aug;23(8):2587-94. doi: 10.1096/fj.09-129619. Epub 2009 Mar 27.


The 6-protein complex shelterin protects the telomeres of human chromosomes. The recent discovery that telomeres are important for epigenetic gene regulation and vertebrate embryonic development calls for the establishment of model organisms to study shelterin and telomere function under normal developmental conditions. Here, we report the sequences of the shelterin-encoding genes in Xenopus laevis and its close relation Xenopus tropicalis. In vitro expression and biochemical characterization of the Xenopus shelterin proteins TRF1, TRF2, POT1, TIN2, RAP1, TPP1, and the shelterin accessory factor PINX1 indicate that all main functions of their human orthologs are conserved in Xenopus. The XlTRF1 and XtTRF1 proteins bind double-stranded telomeric DNA sequence specifically and interact with XlTIN2 and XtTIN2, respectively. Similarly, the XlTRF2 and XtTRF2 proteins bind double-stranded telomeric DNA and interact with XlRAP1 and XtRAP1, respectively, whereas the XlPOT1 and XtPOT1 proteins bind single-stranded telomeric DNA. Real-time PCR further reveals the gene expression profiles for telomerase and the shelterin genes during embryogenesis. Notably, the composition of shelterin and the formation of its subcomplexes appear to be temporally regulated during embryonic development. Moreover, unexpectedly high telomerase and shelterin gene expression during early embryogenesis may reflect a telomere length-resetting mechanism, similar to that reported for induced pluripotent stem cells and for animals cloned through somatic nuclear transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Ovum / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1 / genetics
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Xenopus / genetics
  • Xenopus / growth & development*
  • Xenopus / metabolism*
  • Xenopus Proteins / chemistry
  • Xenopus Proteins / genetics
  • Xenopus Proteins / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis / growth & development
  • Xenopus laevis / metabolism


  • DNA Primers
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • DNA

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AY535401
  • GENBANK/AY673986
  • GENBANK/AY673987
  • GENBANK/EU422974
  • GENBANK/EU422975
  • GENBANK/EU422976
  • GENBANK/EU422977
  • GENBANK/EU422978
  • GENBANK/EU422979
  • GENBANK/EU422980
  • GENBANK/EU422981
  • GENBANK/EU422982
  • GENBANK/EU520258
  • GENBANK/EU520259