Tetrahymena telomeres are protected by a protein complex composed of Pot1, Tpt1, Pat1, and Pat2. Pot1 binds the 3' overhang and serves multiple roles in telomere maintenance. Here we describe Pot2, a paralog of Pot1 which has evolved a novel function during Tetrahymena sexual reproduction. Pot2 is unnecessary for telomere maintenance during vegetative growth, as the telomere structure is unaffected by POT2 macronuclear gene disruption. Pot2 is expressed only in mated cells, where it accumulates in developing macronuclei around the time of two chromosome processing events: internal eliminated sequence (IES) excision and chromosome breakage. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) demonstrated Pot2 localization to regions of chromosome breakage but not to telomeres or IESs. Pot2 association with chromosome breakage sites (CBSs) occurs slightly before chromosome breakage. Pot2 did not bind CBSs or telomeric DNA in vitro, suggesting that it is recruited to CBSs by another factor. The telomere proteins Pot1, Pat1, and Tpt1 and the IES binding factor Pdd1 fail to colocalize with Pot2. Thus, Pot2 is the first protein found to associate specifically with CBSs. The selective association of Pot2 versus Pdd1 with CBSs or IESs indicates a mechanistic difference between the chromosome processing events at these two sites. Moreover, ChIP revealed that histone marks characteristic of IES processing, H3K9me3 and H3K27me3, are absent from CBSs. Thus, the mechanisms of chromosome breakage and IES excision must be fundamentally different. Our results lead to a model where Pot2 directs chromosome breakage by recruiting telomerase and/or the endonuclease responsible for DNA cleavage to CBSs.
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