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Rosario Perona and Leandro Sastre are joint senior authors of this work.
Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures present at the terminal region of the chromosomes. Mutations in genes coding for proteins involved in telomere maintenance are causative of a number of disorders known as telomeropathies. The genetic origin of these diseases is heterogeneous and has not been determined for a significant proportion of patients.
This article describes the genetic characterization of a cohort of patients. Telomere length was determined by Southern blot and quantitative PCR. Nucleotide variants were analyzed either by high-resolution melting analysis and Sanger sequencing of selected exons or by massive sequencing of a panel of genes.
Forty-seven patients with telomere length below the 10% of normal population, affected with three telomeropathies: dyskeratosis congenita (4), aplastic anemia (22) or pulmonary fibrosis (21) were analyzed. Eighteen of these patients presented known pathogenic or novel possibly pathogenic variants in the telomere-related genes TERT, TERC, RTEL1, CTC1 and ACD. In addition, the analyses of a panel of 188 genes related to haematological disorders indicated that a relevant proportion of the patients (up to 35%) presented rare variants in genes related to DNA repair or in genes coding for proteins involved in the resolution of complex DNA structures, that participate in telomere replication. Mutations in some of these genes are causative of several syndromes previously associated to telomere shortening.
Novel variants in telomere, DNA repair and replication genes are described that might indicate the contribution of variants in these genes to the development of telomeropathies. Patients carrying variants in telomere-related genes presented worse evolution after diagnosis than the rest of patients analyzed.