Role of the ESCRT Complexes in Telomere Biology

mBio. 2016 Nov 8;7(6):e01793-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01793-16.


Eukaryotic chromosomal ends are protected by telomeres from fusion, degradation, and unwanted double-strand break repair events. Therefore, telomeres preserve genome stability and integrity. Telomere length can be maintained by telomerase, which is expressed in most human primary tumors but is not expressed in the majority of somatic cells. Thus, telomerase may be a highly relevant anticancer drug target. Genome-wide studies in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae identified a set of genes associated with telomere length maintenance (TLM genes). Among the tlm mutants with short telomeres, we found a strong enrichment for those affecting vacuolar and endosomal traffic (particularly the endosomal sorting complex required for transport [ESCRT] pathway). Here, we present our results from investigating the surprising link between telomere shortening and the ESCRT machinery. Our data show that the whole ESCRT system is required to safeguard proper telomere length maintenance. We propose a model of impaired end resection resulting in too little telomeric overhang, such that Cdc13 binding is prevented, precluding either telomerase recruitment or telomeric overhang protection.

Importance: Telomeres are the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. They are necessary for the proper replication of the genome and protect the chromosomes from degradation. In a large-scale systematic screen for mutants that affect telomere length in yeast, we found that mutations in any of the genes encoding the ESCRT complexes, required for the formation of transport vesicles within the cell, cause telomere shortening. We carried out an analysis of the mechanisms disrupted in these mutants and found that they are defective for the ability to elongate short telomeres, probably due to faulty end processing. We discuss the significance of these findings and how they could be relevant to anticancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / genetics
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Telomerase / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / genetics*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology
  • Telomere Shortening / genetics*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport
  • Telomerase