Telomere Length Regulation Group Children's Medical Research Institute

Lab head: A/Prof. Hilda Pickett
Location: Children's Medical Research Institute, Westmead

Telomeres regulate the lifespan of normal human cells, but become dysregulated in cancer cells. Our group is investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying telomere length control, and how these processes contribute to cancer.


A current list of A/Prof Pickett’s publications can be found on her Sydney Medical School profile page.

Telomere maintenance mechanisms in cancer

Primary supervisor: Hilda Pickett

Telomeres are specialised nucleoprotein structures at the ends of chromosomes, consisting of repetitive DNA (TTAGGG in humans), as well as associated proteins and RNA. Telomeres provide a protective role to the chromosome and are necessary for the maintenance of genome integrity and function. Telomeres can exist in a stable secondary structure called a telomere-loop (t-loop), which is formed by strand invasion of the 3´ overhang into internal telomeric repeats on the same chromosome end.  Telomere length ultimately dictates how many times a cell can divide and is regulated by (i) gradual telomere attrition during cell division, (ii) rapid telomere deletion events in response to overlengthening known as telomere trimming, and (iii) activation of a telomere maintenance mechanism.
Telomere trimming was identified and characterised in the Cancer Research Unit at CMRI.  Telomere trimming involves resolution of the t-loop structure, and results in a shortened telomere and an extrachromosomal t-circle by-product.  This mechanism has been demonstrated to involve the recombination protein XRCC3.  The aim of this project is to induce rapid telomere deletion by the molecular manipulation of telomere trimming, and will involve a variety of molecular biology techniques including cloning techniques, transfection, protein localisation, telomere length analysis, tissue culture, and microscopy. The overall goal is to limit cell proliferation in cancer cells by the induction of rapid telomere shortening.

Discipline: Pathology
Co-supervisors: Roger Reddel
Keywords: Telomere, Telomerase, Cancer