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Hyperextended telomeres promote formation of C-circle DNA in telomerase positive human cells
Celina Y Jones 1, Christopher L Williams 1, Sara P Moreno 2, Danna K Morris 1, Chiara Mondello 3, Jan Karlseder 2, Alison A Bertuch 4
...How C-circles form is not well characterized. We investigated C-circle formation in the human cen3tel cell line, a long-telomere, telomerase+ (LTT+) cell line with progressively hyper-elongated telomeres (up to ∼100 kb). cECTR signal was observed in 2D gels and C-circle assays but not t-circle assays, which also detect cECTRs. Telomerase activity and C-circle signal were not separable in the analysis of clonal populations, consistent with C-circle production occurring within telomerase+ cells. We observed similar cECTR results in two other LTT+ cell lines, HeLa1.3 (∼23 kb telomeres) and HeLaE1 (∼50 kb telomeres). In LTT+ cells, telomerase activity did not directly impact C-circle signal; instead, C-circle signal correlated with telomere length. LTT+ cell lines were less sensitive to hydroxyurea than ALT+ cell lines, suggesting that ALT status is a stronger contributor to replication stress levels than telomere length. Additionally, the DNA repair-associated protein FANCM did not suppress C-circles in LTT+ cells as it does in ALT+ cells. Thus, C-circle formation may be driven by telomere length, independently of telomerase and replication stress, highlighting limitations of C-circles as a stand-alone ALT biomarker.