G-quadruplexes are four-stranded guanine-rich structures that have been demonstrated to occur across the genome in humans and other organisms. They provide regulatory functions during transcription, translation and immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, but there is also a large amount of evidence that they can present a potent barrier to the DNA replication machinery. This mini-review will summarize recent advances in understanding the many strategies nature has evolved to overcome G-quadruplex-mediated replication blockage, including removal of the structure by helicases or nucleases, or circumventing the deleterious effects on the genome through homologous recombination, alternative end-joining or synthesis re-priming. Paradoxically, G-quadruplexes have also recently been demonstrated to provide a positive role in stimulating the initiation of DNA replication. These recent studies have not only illuminated the many roles and consequences of G-quadruplexes, but have also provided fundamental insights into the general mechanisms of DNA replication and its links with genetic and epigenetic stability.
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