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Holliday Junctions Formed from Human Telomeric DNA

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posted on 16.10.2018, 00:00 by Shozeb Haider, Pengfei Li, Soraia Khiali, Deeksha Munnur, Arvind Ramanathan, Gary N. Parkinson
Cells have evolved inherent mechanisms, like homologous recombination (HR), to repair damaged DNA. However, repairs at telomeres can lead to genomic instability, often associated with cancer. While most rapidly dividing cells employ telomerase, the others maintain telomere length through HR-dependent alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) pathways. Here we describe the crystal structures of Holliday junction intermediates of the HR-dependent ALT mechanism. Using an extended human telomeric repeat, we also report the crystal structure of two Holliday junctions in close proximity, which associate together through strand exchange to form a hemicatenated double Holliday junction. Our combined structural results demonstrate that ACC nucleotides in the C-rich lagging strand (5′-CTAACCCTAA-3′) at the telomere repeat sequence constitute a conserved structural feature that constrains crossover geometry and is a preferred site for Holliday junction formation in telomeres.