Drosophila telomeres are sequence-independent structures maintained by transposition to chromosome ends of three specialized retroelements rather than by telomerase activity. Fly telomeres are protected by the terminin complex that includes the HOAP, HipHop, Moi and Ver proteins. These are fast evolving, non-conserved proteins that localize and function exclusively at telomeres, protecting them from fusion events. We have previously suggested that terminin is the functional analogue of shelterin, the multi-protein complex that protects human telomeres. Here, we use electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to show that Ver preferentially binds single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) with no sequence specificity. We also show that Moi and Ver form a complex in vivo. Although these two proteins are mutually dependent for their localization at telomeres, Moi neither binds ssDNA nor facilitates Ver binding to ssDNA. Consistent with these results, we found that Ver-depleted telomeres form RPA and γH2AX foci, like the human telomeres lacking the ssDNA-binding POT1 protein. Collectively, our findings suggest that Drosophila telomeres possess a ssDNA overhang like the other eukaryotes, and that the terminin complex is architecturally and functionally similar to shelterin.
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.