Single-stranded DNA binding factor AtWHY1 modulates telomere length homeostasis in Arabidopsis

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Telomere homeostasis, a process that is essential for the maintenance of chromosome integrity, is regulated by telomerase and a collection of associated proteins. By mass spectrometry we have identified a new telomeric protein encoded by theAtWHY1(Arabidopsis thalianaWhirly 1) gene in Arabidopsis. AtWHY1 specifically binds the single-stranded plant telomeric DNA sequences, but not double-stranded telomeric DNA. To gain insights into the function of AtWHY1 in telomere biogenesis, we have identified two Arabidopsis lines harboring T-DNA insertions inAtWHY1. These lines exhibit neither growth nor developmental defects. However,AtWHY1-deficient plants show a steady increase in the length of telomere tracts over generations. This telomere elongation is correlated with a significant increase in telomerase activity. On the contrary, transgenic plants expressingAtWHY1show a decreased telomerase activity and shortened telomeres. The evidence presented here indicates that AtWHY1 is a new family of telomere end-binding proteins that plays a role in regulating telomere-length homeostasis in Arabidopsis.

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