To achieve unlimited proliferative potential, most cancer cells activate telomerase to maintain telomeres. However, some cancer cells elongate telomeres through a telomerase-independent pathway termed alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). These ALT cells contain a novel promyelocytic leukemia (PML) body (ALT-associated PML body, APB), which comprises telomeric DNA and a number of proteins, including PML protein, the telomere binding proteins TRF1 and TRF2, replication factor A, and recombination factors Rad51, Rad52, and the Rad50/Mre11/NBS1 complex. TRF1, as the first identified telomeric binding protein, binds the duplex telomeric repeats at telomere ends. It plays an important role in telomere length control, telomeric ends shelter and cell cycle regulation. In ALT cell lines, TRF1 co-localized with PML protein at APBs, but the exact mechanism of its recruitment to APBs is not clear. Here we show that TRF1 localizes to PML bodies in about 5% of an asynchronously growing culture of U2OS cells and the percentage of cells with colocalization of TRF1 and PML bodies increases to about 40% in cells enriched in G2/M, which is consistent with the previous studies. Furthermore, our results show that TRF1 is modified by the small ubiquitin-like protein SUMO-1 in vivo and in vitro. Firstly, 293T cells were transfected with Flag-TRF1, HA-Ubc9, GFP-SUMO1 and then immunoprecipitated by using FLAG-M2 gel under denaturing conditions. Immunoblotting with GFP and Flag antibodies demonstrated that TRF1 is modified by SUMO-1 in vivo. Next, in vitro SUMO-1 conjugation assay of TRF1 was employed. The results showed that TRF1 is conjugated with SUMO-1 in the presence of purified recombinant protein SAE1/SAE2, Ubc9, SUMO1, His-TRF1 and ATP. Either SAE1/SAE2, Ubc9, SUMO-1 or ATP was omitted from the reaction abolished the sumoylation of TRF1. Previous studies have shown that sumoylation controls the recruitment of several proteins to PML bodies, so we examined whether sumoylation of TRF1 is required for its recruitment to APBs. We mutated the potential sumoylation sites of TRF1 according to the computational prediction and then transfected it into U2OS cells to examine its localization. The results showed that TRF1 mutant does not localize to PML bodies. Taken together, all these results suggest that TRF is modified by SUMO-1 and sumoylation of TRF1 is essential for its recruitment to APBs in ALT cells.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.