Int. J. Dev. Biol. 46: 143 - 148 (2002)
© UPV/EHU Press

New telomere formation during the process of chromatin diminution in Ascaris suum.

Stephan Jentsch, Heinz Tobler and Fritz Müller

Institute of Zoology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

ABSTRACT Chromatin diminution in the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum represents an interesting case of developmentally programmed DNA rearrangement in higher eukaryotes. At the molecular level, it is a rather complex event including chromosome breakage, new telomere formation and DNA degradation. Analysis of a cloned somatic telomere (pTel1) revealed that it has been newly created during the process of chromatin diminution by the addition of telomeric repeats (TTAGGC)n to a chromosomal breakage site (Müller et al., 1991). However, telomere addition does not occur at a single chromosomal locus, but at many different sites within a short chromosomal region, termed CBR1 (chromosomal breakage region 1). Here we present the cloning and the analysis of 83 different PCR amplified telomere addition sites from the region of CBR1. The lack of any obvious sequence homology shared among them argues for a telomerase-mediated healing process, rather than for a recombinational event. This hypothesis is strongly supported by the existence of 1-6 nucleotides corresponding to and being in frame with the newly added telomeric repeats at almost all of the telomere addition sites. Furthermore, we show that telomeres are not only added to the ends of the retained chromosomal portions, but also to the eliminated part of the chromosomes, which later on become degraded in the cytoplasm. This result suggests that de novo telomere formation during the process of chromatin diminution represents a non-specific process which can heal any broken DNA end.