Claus M. Azzalin,
ETH Zurich, Institute of Biochemistry (IBC), Switzerland
Susan M. Bailey,
Colorado State University, USA
Telomeres are heterochromatic nucleoprotein structures located at the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes. Telomeres allow cells to distinguish between natural chromosomal termini and double-strand breaks in the DNA and also set the lifespan of normal somatic cells by eliciting cellular senescence when they become critically short. Loss of proper telomere structure triggers severe chromosomal instability cascades, which are hallmarks of many human diseases including cancer. The core structure of telomeres generally comprises tracts of repetitive DNA sequences, telomere-specific proteins and telomeric repeat-containing RNA molecules. In addition, common marks of heterochromatin are enriched at telomeric loci. Given the crucial roles played by telomeres in cellular senescence, organismal aging and cancer development, a thorough characterization of telomere structure and function is expected to contribute to the development of therapeutic approached aiming at curing cancer and age associated diseases. In this Research Topics collection, I intend to bring together worldwide-recognized experts from the telomere field to cover the current knowledge of telomere structure and functions in different model organisms.