We have identified and characterized an Arabidopsis thaliana rad50 mutant plant containing a T-DNA insertion in the AtRAD50 gene and showing both meiotic and DNA repair defects. We report here that rad50/rad50 mutant cells show a progressive shortening of telomeric DNA relative to heterozygous rad50/RAD50 controls and that the mutant cell population rapidly enters a crisis, with the majority of the cells dying. Surviving rad50 mutant cells have longer telomeres than wild-type cells, indicating the existence in plants of an alternative RAD50-independent mechanism for telomere maintenance. These results report the role of a protein essential for double-strand break repair in telomere maintenance in higher eukaryotes
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