Telomeric repeat sequences, located at the end of eukaryotic chromosomes, have been detected at intrachromosomal locations in many species. Large blocks of telomeric sequences are located near the centromeres in hamster cells, and have been reported to break spontaneously or after exposure to ionizing radiation, leading to chromosome aberrations. In human cells, interstitial telomeric sequences (ITS) can be composed of short tracts of telomeric repeats (less than twenty), or of longer stretches of exact and degenerated hexanucleotides, mainly localized at subtelomeres. In this paper, we analyzed the radiation sensitivity of a naturally occurring short ITS localized in 2q31 and we found that this region is not a hot spot of radiation-induced chromosome breaks. We then selected a human cell line in which approximately 800 bp of telomeric DNA had been introduced by transfection into an internal euchromatic chromosomal region in chromosome 4q. In parallel, a cell line containing the plasmid without telomeric sequences was also analyzed. Both regions containing the transfected plasmids showed a higher frequency of radiation-induced breaks than expected, indicating that the instability of the regions containing the transfected sequences is not due to the presence of telomeric sequences. Taken together, our data show that ITS themselves do not enhance the formation of radiation-induced chromosome rearrangements in these human cell lines.
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