In telomerase-deficient yeast cells, like equivalent mammalian cells, telomeres shorten over many generations until a period of senescence/crisis is reached. After this, a small fraction of cells can escape senescence, principally using recombination-dependent mechanisms. To investigate the pathways that affect entry into and recovery from telomere-driven senescence, we combined a gene deletion disrupting telomerase (est1Delta) with the systematic yeast deletion collection and measured senescence characteristics in high-throughput assays. As expected, the vast majority of gene deletions showed no strong effects on entry into/exit from senescence. However, around 200 gene deletions behaving similarly to a rad52Deltaest1Delta archetype (rad52Delta affects homologous recombination) accelerated entry into senescence, and such cells often could not recover growth. A smaller number of strains similar to a rif1Deltaest1Delta archetype (rif1Delta affects proteins that bind telomeres) accelerated entry into senescence but also accelerated recovery from senescence. Our genome-wide analysis identifies genes that affect entry into and/or exit from telomere-initiated senescence and will be of interest to those studying telomere biology, replicative senescence, cancer, and ageing. Our dataset is complementary to other high-throughput studies relevant to telomere biology, genetic stability, and DNA damage responses.
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