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Preface/Front Matter

E.H. Blackburn, C.W. Greider


Interest in telomere molecular structure and function has been on a continuous climb since the initial characterization of the repeated DNA sequences on the ends of chromosomes in 1978. We believe that this volume is especially timely, given recent advances in a variety of areas, which have set the stage for answering long-standing questions about telomere biology. The findings that many different eukaryotes, including mammals, have similar types of tandem repeated sequences and that these sequences can functionally substitute from one organism to another in a different phylogenetic kingdom fueled much of the initial interest. The discovery that telomere length is maintained not by conventional replication but by a unique RNP polymerase termed telomerase piqued the interest of scientists studying many basic mechanisms of cell biology. The more recent association of telomerase activity with human tumors has caught the attention of those interested in its possible clinical implications. With telomeres, as in many other cases, the exceptions to the common theme have provided new insights into biological function. For example, the budding yeasts that have unusually long telomere repeats, with little bias for G+T content, provided evidence for what might be required of telomere sequences and also an avenue to characterize yeast telomerase. Drosophila, ironically one of the first organisms where telomere function was defined, appears to solve the telomere maintenance problem in a manner different from that of many other eukaryotes.

With this book we have tried to provide a thorough background for all of the major areas of

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