Telomere length maintenance--an ALTernative mechanism.Cytogenet Genome Res. 2008; 122(3-4):281-91.CG
The Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) mechanism is utilised by approximately 10% of human tumours and a higher proportion of some types of sarcomas. ALT+ cell lines and tumours show heterogeneous telomere length, extra-chromosomal circular and linear telomeric DNA, ALT associated promyelocytic bodies (APBs), a high frequency of post-replication exchanges in telomeres (designated as telomere-sister chromatid exchanges, T-SCE) and high instability at a GC-rich minisatellite, MS32 (D1S8). It is clear that there is a link between the minisatellite instability and the mechanism that underpins ALT, however currently the nature of this relationship is uncertain. Single molecule analysis of telomeric DNA from ALT+ cell lines and tumours has revealed complex telomere mutations that have not been seen in cell lines or tumours that express telomerase. These complex telomere mutations cannot be explained by T-SCE but must arise by another inter-molecular process. The break-induced replication (BIR) model that may explain the observed high frequency of T-SCE and the presence of complex telomere mutations is reviewed.