Mammalian telomeres are composed of long arrays of TTAGGG repeats complexed with the TTAGGG repeat binding factor, TRF. Biochemical and ultrastructural data presented here show that the telomeric DNA and TRF colocalize in individual, condensed structures in the nuclear matrix. Telomeric TTAGGG repeats were found to carry an array of nuclear matrix attachment sites occurring at a frequency of at least one per kb. The nuclear matrix association of the telomeric arrays extended over large domains of up to 20-30 kb, encompassing the entire length of most mammalian telomeres. TRF protein and telomeric DNA cofractionated in nuclear matrix preparations and colocalized in discrete, condensed sites throughout the nuclear volume. FISH analysis indicated that TRF is an integral component of the telomeric complex and that the presence of TRF on telomeric DNA correlates with the compact configuration of telomeres and their association with the nuclear matrix. Biochemical fractionation of TRF and telomeric DNA did not reveal an interaction with the nuclear lamina. Furthermore, ultrastructural analysis indicated that the mammalian telomeric complex occupied sites throughout the nuclear volume, arguing against a role for the nuclear envelope in telomere function during interphase. These results are consistent with the view that mammalian telomeres form nuclear matrix-associated, TRF-containing higher order complexes at dispersed sites throughout the nuclear volume.

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