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Transcription of tandemly repetitive DNA: functional roles.

Authors: Maria Assunta MA. Biscotti, Adriana A. Canapa, Mariko M. Forconi, Ettore E. Olmo, Marco M. Barucca
Published: 11/17/2015, Chromosome research : an international journal on the molecular, supramolecular and evolutionary aspects of chromosome biology


A considerable fraction of the eukaryotic genome is made up of satellite DNA constituted of tandemly repeated sequences. These elements are mainly located at centromeres, pericentromeres, and telomeres and are major components of constitutive heterochromatin. Although originally satellite DNA was thought silent and inert, an increasing number of studies are providing evidence on its transcriptional activity supporting, on the contrary, an unexpected dynamicity. This review summarizes the multiple structural roles of satellite noncoding RNAs at chromosome level. Indeed, satellite noncoding RNAs play a role in the establishment of a heterochromatic state at centromere and telomere. These highly condensed structures are indispensable to preserve chromosome integrity and genome stability, preventing recombination events, and ensuring the correct chromosome pairing and segregation. Moreover, these RNA molecules seem to be involved also in maintaining centromere identity and in elongation, capping, and replication of telomere. Finally, the abnormal variation of centromeric and pericentromeric DNA transcription across major eukaryotic lineages in stress condition and disease has evidenced the critical role that these transcripts may play and the potentially dire consequences for the organism.

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