Telomeres and Mechanisms of Robertsonian Fusion

Chromosoma. 1998 May;107(2):136-40. doi: 10.1007/s004120050289.


The Robertsonian (Rb) fusion, a chromosome rearrangement involving centric fusion of two acro-(telo)centric chromosomes to form a single metacentric, is one of the most frequent events in mammalian karyotype evolution. Since one of the functions of telomeres is to preserve chromosome integrity, a prerequisite for the formation of Rb fusions should be either telomere loss or telomere inactivation. Possible mechanisms underlying the formation of various types of Rb fusion are discussed here. For example, Rb fusion in wild mice involves complete loss of p-arm telomeres by chromosome breakage within minor satellite sequences. By contrast, interstitial telomeric sites are found in the pericentromeric regions of chromosomes originating from a number of vertebrate species, suggesting the occurrence of Rb-like fusion without loss of telomeres, a possibility consistent with some form of telomere inactivation. Finally, a recent study suggests that telomere shortening induced by the deletion of the telomerase RNA gene in the mouse germ-line leads to telomere loss and high frequencies of Rb fusion in mouse somatic cells. Thus, at least three mechanisms in mammalian cells lead to the formation of Rb fusions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Gene Fusion*
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Breakage
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Humans
  • Telomere / chemistry
  • Telomere / genetics*