Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Walter A. Scott

Second Committee Member

Mary Lou King

Third Committee Member

Mathias G. Lichtenheld

Fourth Committee Member

Terace M. Fletcher

Fifth Committee Member

Juan Ausio


Human telomeric DNA consists of tandem repeats of the sequence 5'-d(TTAGGG)-3' assembled into a nucleoprotein complex that functions to protect the ends of chromosomes. Such guanine-rich DNA is capable of forming a variety of G-quadruplexes, which in turn, can have varying functional consequences on telomere maintenance. G-quadruplex stabilizing ligands have been shown to induce chromosome end-to-end fusions, senescence and apoptosis, effects similar to the expression of a dominant-negative TTAGGG Repeat Factor 2 (TRF2). With this in mind, we analyzed the effect of sequence and length of human telomeric DNA, as well as cation conditions on G-quadruplex formation by native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and circular dichroism. We show that K+ and Sr2+ can induce human telomeric DNA to form both inter- and intramolecular structures. Circular dichroism results suggest that the structures in K+ were a mix of parallel and antiparallel G-quadruplexes, while Sr2+ induced only parallel-stranded structures. We also found that TRF2, a protein essential for telomere maintenance, affects G-quadruplex structure. These structures serve as useful models to study the effects of G-quadruplexes on the activities of telomeric proteins, like TRF2, from human cells. The G-strand overhang at the ends of telomeres may periodically adopt at least some of these quadruplex conformations, which could subsequently affect protein binding and telomere function. TRF2, a protein essential for telomere maintenance, is not known to bind single-strand (ss) DNA, work performed in the lab suggested that the type of 3'-overhang in telomeric DNA ss/ds-junctions affects TRF2-binding. Specifically, preventing G-quadruplex formation by changing the overhang sequence from 5'-d(TTAGGG)4-3', to 5'-dTTAGGG(TTAGAG)2TTAGGG-3', reduced TRF2 recruitment to the ss/ds-junction from HeLa cell extracts. Using the same techniques as above, we show that the N-terminal basic domain of TRF2 in K+ induces a switch from the mixed parallel/antiparallel-stranded G-quadruplexes usually stabilized by K+-alone, to parallel-stranded G-quadruplexes. Interestingly, it also promotes intermolecular parallel G-quadruplex formation on non-quadruplex, single-stranded intermediates, but will not induce a switch from an antiparallel to a parallel G-quadruplex in Na+. These results are the first to demonstrate specific TRF2 G-quadruplex interactions, suggesting a novel mechanism for TRF2 recognition of the ds/ss junction of telomeres.


TRF2; Telomere; G-quadruplex