Telomere Dysfunction, Chromosomal Instability and Cancer

Recent Results Cancer Res. 2015;200:61-79. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-20291-4_3.


Telomeres form protective caps at the ends of linear chromosomes to prevent nucleolytic degradation, end-to-end fusion, irregular recombination, and chromosomal instability. Telomeres are composed of repetitive DNA sequences (TTAGGG)n in humans, that are bound by specialized telomere binding proteins. Telomeres lose capping function in response to telomere shortening, which occurs during each division of cells that lack telomerase activity-the enzyme that can synthesize telomeres de novo. Telomeres have a dual role in cancer: telomere shortening can lead to induction of chromosomal instability and to the initiation of tumors, however, initiated tumors need to reactivate telomerase in order to stabilize chromosomes and to gain immortal growth capacity. In this review, we summarize current knowledge on the role of telomeres in the maintenance of chromosomal stability and carcinogenesis.

Keywords: Genome stability; Senescence; Telomerase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chromosomal Instability*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Telomerase / physiology
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1 / physiology


  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1
  • Telomerase