Drosophila Telomeres: A Variation on the Telomerase Theme
Mary-Lou Pardue and P.G. DeBaryshe
In Drosophila, the role of telomerase is carried out by three specialized retrotransposable elements, HeT‑A, TART and Tahre. Telomeres contain long tandem head‑to‑tail arrays of these elements. Within each array, the three elements occur in random, but polarized, order. Some are truncated at the 5\\\' end, giving the telomere an enriched content of the large 3\\\' untranslated regions which distinguish these telomeric elements from other retrotransposons. Thus, Drosophila telomeres resemble other telomeres because they are long arrays of repeated sequences, albeit more irregular arrays than those produced by telomerase. The telomeric retrotransposons are reverse‑transcribed directly onto the end of the chromosome, extending the end by successive transpositions. Their transposition uses exactly the same method by which telomerase extends chromosome ends—copying an RNA template. In addition to these similarities in structure and maintenance, Drosophila telomeres have strong functional similarities to other telomeres and, as variants, provide an important model for understanding general principles of telomere function and evolution.