Telomere Science Library

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Noisy silence: non-coding RNA and heterochromatin formation at repetitive elements.

Authors: Holger H. Bierhoff, Anna A. Postepska-Igielska, Ingrid I. Grummt
Published: 10/11/2013, Epigenetics


A significant fraction of eukaryotic genomes comprises repetitive sequences, including rRNA genes, centromeres, telomeres, and retrotransposons. Repetitive elements are hotspots for recombination and represent a serious challenge for genome integrity. Maintaining these repeated elements in a compact heterochromatic structure suppresses recombination and unwanted mutagenic transposition, and is therefore indispensable for genomic stability. Paradoxically, repetitive elements are not transcriptionally inert, but produce RNA that has important functions in regulating and reinforcing the heterochromatic state. Here, we review the role of non-coding RNA (ncRNA) in recruiting chromatin-modifying enzymes to repetitive genomic loci to establish a repressive chromatin structure that safeguards chromosome integrity and genome stability.

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