The ability of our cells to maintain genomic integrity is fundamental for protection from cancer development. Central to this process is the ability of cells to recognize and repair DNA damage and progress through the cell cycle in a regulated and orderly manner. In addition, protection of chromosome ends through the proper assembly of telomeres prevents loss of genetic information and aberrant chromosome fusions. Cells derived from patients with ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) show defects in cell cycle regulation, abnormal responses to DNA breakage, and chromosomal end-to-end fusions. The identification and characterization of the ATM (ataxia-telangiectasia, mutated) gene product has provided an essential tool for researchers in elucidating cellular mechanisms involved in cell cycle control, DNA repair, and chromosomal stability.
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