Telomere erosion, dysfunction, and fusion can lead to a state of cellular crisis characterized by large-scale genome instability. We investigated the impact of a telomere-driven crisis on the structural integrity of the genome by undertaking whole-genome sequence analyses of clonal populations of cells that had escaped crisis. Quantification of large-scale structural variants revealed patterns of rearrangement consistent with chromothripsis but formed in the absence of functional nonhomologous end-joining pathways. Rearrangements frequently consisted of short fragments with complex mutational patterns, with a repair topology that deviated from randomness showing preferential repair to local regions or exchange between specific loci. We find evidence of telomere involvement with an enrichment of fold-back inversions demarcating clusters of rearrangements. Our data suggest that chromothriptic rearrangements caused by a telomere crisis arise via a replicative repair process involving template switching.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The Baird laboratory was supported by Cancer Research UK (C17199/A18246). The Hendrickson laboratory was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (CA154461) and National Institutes of Health General Medical Sciences (GM088351).