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Telomeres progressively shorten at every round of DNA replication in the absence of telomerase. When they become critically short, telomeres trigger replicative senescence by activating a DNA damage response that is governed by the Mec1/ATR and Tel1/ATM protein kinases. While Mec1/ATR is known to block cell division when extended single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) accumulates at eroded telomeres, the molecular mechanism by which Tel1/ATM promotes senescence is still unclear. By characterizing a Tel1-hy184 mutant variant that compensates for the lack of Mec1 functions, we provide evidence that Tel1 promotes senescence by signaling to a Rad9-dependent checkpoint. Tel1-hy184 anticipates senescence onset in telomerase-negative cells, while the lack of Tel1 or the expression of a kinase-defective (kd) Tel1 variant delays it. Both Tel1-hy184 and Tel1-kd do not alter ssDNA generation at telomeric DNA ends. Furthermore, Rad9 and (only partially) Mec1 are responsible for the precocious senescence promoted by Tel1-hy184. This precocious senescence is mainly caused by the F1751I, D1985N, and E2133K amino acid substitutions, which are located in the FRAP-ATM-TRAPP domain of Tel1 and also increase Tel1 binding to DNA ends. Altogether, these results indicate that Tel1 induces replicative senescence by directly signaling dysfunctional telomeres to the checkpoint machinery. Copyright © 2019 by the Genetics Society of America.


Luca Menin, Chiara Vittoria Colombo, Giorgia Maestrini, Maria Pia Longhese, Michela Clerici. Tel1/ATM Signaling to the Checkpoint Contributes to Replicative Senescence in the Absence of Telomerase. Genetics. 2019 Oct;213(2):411-429

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PMID: 31391264

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