Telomere shortening rates must be regulated to prevent premature replicative senescence. TERRA R-loops become stabilized at critically short telomeres to promote their elongation through homology-directed repair (HDR), thereby counteracting senescence onset. Using a non-bias proteomic approach to detect telomere binding factors, we identified Npl3, an RNA-binding protein previously implicated in multiple RNA biogenesis processes. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation and RNA immunoprecipitation, we demonstrate that Npl3 interacts with TERRA and telomeres. Furthermore, we show that Npl3 associates with telomeres in an R-loop-dependent manner, as changes in R-loop levels, for example, at short telomeres, modulate the recruitment of Npl3 to chromosome ends. Through a series of genetic and biochemical approaches, we reveal that Npl3 binds to TERRA and stabilizes R-loops at short telomeres, which in turn promotes HDR and prevents premature replicative senescence onset. This may have implications for diseases associated with excessive telomere shortening.
Keywords: Npl3; R-loop; RNA-DNA hybrid; senescence; telomere.
© 2020 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.