Mre11 modulates the fidelity of fusion between short telomeres in human cells

Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Mar;40(6):2518-26. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1117. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


The loss of telomere function can result in the fusion of telomeres with other telomeric loci, or non-telomeric double-stranded DNA breaks. Sequence analysis of fusion events between short dysfunctional telomeres in human cells has revealed that fusion is characterized by a distinct molecular signature consisting of extensive deletions and micro-homology at the fusion points. This signature is consistent with alternative error-prone end-joining processes. We have examined the role that Mre11 may play in the fusion of short telomeres in human cells; to do this, we have analysed telomere fusion events in cells derived from ataxia-telangiectasia-like disorder (ATLD) patients that exhibit hypomorphic mutations in MRE11. The telomere dynamics of ATLD fibroblasts were indistinguishable from wild-type fibroblasts and they were proficient in the fusion of short telomeres. However, we observed a high frequency of insertion of DNA sequences at the fusion points that created localized sequence duplications. These data indicate that Mre11 plays a role in the fusion of short dysfunctional telomeres in human cells and are consistent with the hypothesis that as part of the MRN complex it serves to stabilize the joining complex, thereby controlling the fidelity of the fusion reaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia Telangiectasia / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • MRE11 Homologue Protein
  • Mutation
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Telomere / chemistry*
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MRE11 protein, human
  • MRE11 Homologue Protein