© 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures that cap the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes, protecting them from degradation and activation of DNA damage response. For this reason, functional telomeres are vital to genome stability. For years, telomeres were assumed to be transcriptionally silent, because of their heterochromatic state. It was only recently shown that, in several organisms, telomeres are transcribed, giving rise to a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) called telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). Several lines of evidence now indicate that TERRA molecules play crucial roles in telomere homeostasis and telomere functions. Recent studies have shown that the expression and regulation of TERRA are dynamically controlled by each chromosome end. TERRA has been involved in the regulation of telomere length, telomerase activity, and heterochromatin formation at telomeres. The correct regulation of the telomeric transcripts may be essential to genome stability, and altered TERRA levels associate with tumorigenesis and cellular senescence. Thus, the study of the molecular mechanisms of TERRA biogenesis and function may advance the understanding of telomere-related diseases, including cancer and aging.