Analysis of Carica papaya Telomeres and Telomere-Associated Proteins: Insights into the Evolution of Telomere Maintenance in Brassicales

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Telomeres are terminal regions of linear eukaryotic chromosomes that are critical for genome stability and continued cell proliferation. The draft assembly of the papaya genome provides an opportunity to analyze and compare the evolution of telomeric DNA sequence composition and telomere maintenance machinery in this and other organisms of the Brassicales Order, which includes Arabidopsis. Here we investigate telomere size and sequence variation at papaya chromosome ends. As with most other plant species, papaya telomeres consist of TTTAGGG repeats. However, in contrast to members of the closely related Brassicaceae family, telomeres in papaya are ~10-fold longer. Sequence analysis reveals that many centromereproximal telomere repeats in papaya harbor nucleotide substitutions and insertions of Gs and Ts. In contrast, we found very few N-to-C substitutions, and even fewer instances of nucleotide deletion, suggesting that a six-nucleotide telomere repeat is not well tolerated. The papaya genome encodes single-copy sequence homologues of several genes involved in telomere maintenance and chromosome end protection, including the Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (TERT) and Protection Of Telomeres (POT1). Notably, unlike Arabidopsis, which encodes six Telomere Repeat binding Factor-like (TRFL) proteins that bind double-stranded telomere DNA, papaya appears to encode only two such proteins. Thus, the more streamlined genome of papaya will provide an excellent resource for comparative and functional analysis of telomeres in plants.


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