SLX4 assembles a toolkit of endonucleases SLX1, MUS81 and XPF, which is recruited to telomeres via direct interaction of SLX4 with TRF2. Telomeres present an inherent obstacle for DNA replication and repair due to their high propensity to form branched DNA intermediates. Here we provide novel insight into the mechanism and regulation of the SLX4 complex in telomere preservation. SLX4 associates with telomeres throughout the cell cycle, peaking in late S phase and under genotoxic stress. Disruption of SLX4's interaction with TRF2 or SLX1 and SLX1's nuclease activity independently causes telomere fragility, suggesting a requirement of the SLX4 complex for nucleolytic resolution of branched intermediates during telomere replication. Indeed, the SLX1-SLX4 complex processes a variety of telomeric joint molecules in vitro. The nucleolytic activity of SLX1-SLX4 is negatively regulated by telomeric DNA-binding proteins TRF1 and TRF2 and is suppressed by the RecQ helicase BLMin vitro. In vivo, in the presence of functional BLM, telomeric circle formation and telomere sister chromatid exchange, both arising out of nucleolytic processing of telomeric homologous recombination intermediates, are suppressed. We propose that the SLX4-toolkit is a telomere accessory complex that, in conjunction with other telomere maintenance proteins, ensures unhindered, but regulated telomere maintenance.
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