Telomeres are DNA repeats at the end of the chromosomes. Their function is similar to such of an aglet; if the aglet gets damaged, the whole shoe lace loses its integrity. The same is the case for telomeres, when the telomere gets progressively shorter, the genetic material is in danger. To understand telomeres, we first need to understand telomerase; an enzyme in charge of adding those telomere repeats to the end of the chromosome.
I work on a protein called POT1b on Arabidopsis Thaliana. POT1b is a negative regulator of telomerase. Why do you need a negative regulator of telomerase you may ask? In case of a DNA damage that causes a double strand break on a chromosome, telomerase can get confused, and start adding those telomere repeats at a position where they do not belong. This De Novo Telomere formation has been associated with many genetic disorders, such as cancer and mental retardation.
Besides working as a negative regulator of telomerase, POT1b seems to have another job. Arabidopsis thaliana plants that lack POT1b seem to have smaller roots compared with wild type plants. The phenomenon observed does not resemble phenotypes characteristic of telomere biology, but they resemble a function of POT1b in plant development.
Taken all of this information together, it seems that POT1b is a telomeric protein that has evolved a function other than telomere biology. This study will reveal mechanism of non canonical telomeric proteins in plant biology