In this perspective, we introduce shelterin and the mechanisms of ATM activation and NHEJ at telomeres, before discussing the following questions: How are t-loops proposed to protect chromosome ends and what is the evidence for this model? Can other models explain how TRF2 mediates end protection? Could t-loops be pathological structures? How is end protection achieved in pluripotent cells? What do the insights into telomere end protection in pluripotent cells mean for the t-loop model of end protection? Why might different cell states have evolved different mechanisms of end protection? Finally, we offer support for an updated t-loop model of end protection, suggesting that the data is supportive of a critical role for t-loops in protecting chromosome ends from NHEJ and ATM activation, but that other mechanisms are involved. Finally, we propose that t-loops are likely dynamic, rather than static, structures.
Keywords: DNA damage response; NHEJ; TRF2; pluripotency; somatic cells; t-loops; telomeres.
© 2021 Ruis and Boulton; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.