MERISTEM DISORGANIZATION1 encodes TEN1, an essential telomere protein that modulates telomerase processivity in Arabidopsis.
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Telomeres protect chromosome ends from being recognized as DNA damage, and they facilitate the complete replication of linear chromosomes. CST [for CTC1(Cdc13)/STN1/TEN1] is a trimeric chromosome end binding complex implicated in both aspects of telomere function. Here, we characterize TEN1 in the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We report that TEN1 (for telomeric pathways in association with Stn1, which stands for suppressor of cdc thirteen) is encoded by a previously characterized gene, MERISTEM DISORGANIZATION1 (MDO1). A point mutation in MDO1, mdo1-1/ten1-3 (G77E), triggers stem cell differentiation and death as well as a constitutive DNA damage response. We provide biochemical and genetic evidence that ten1-3 is likely to be a null mutation. As with ctc1 and stn1 null mutants, telomere tracts in ten1-3 are shorter and more heterogeneous than the wild type. Mutants also exhibit frequent telomere fusions, increased single-strand telomeric DNA, and telomeric circles. However, unlike stn1 or ctc1 mutants, telomerase enzyme activity is elevated in ten1-3 mutants due to an increase in repeat addition processivity. In addition, TEN1 is detected at a significantly smaller fraction of telomeres than CTC1. These data indicate that TEN1 is critical for telomere stability and also plays an unexpected role in modulating telomerase enzyme activity.