Secondary structure of vertebrate telomerase RNA
Greider, Carol W.
Blasco, Maria A.
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Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that maintains telomere length by adding telomeric sequence repeats onto chromosome ends. The essential RNA component of telomerase provides the template for telomeric repeat synthesis. To determine the secondary structure of vertebrate telomerase RNA, 32 new telomerase RNA genes were cloned and sequenced from a variety of vertebrate species including 18 mammals, 2 birds, 1 reptile, 7 amphibians, and 4 fishes. Using phylogenetic comparative analysis, we propose a secondary structure that contains four structural domains conserved in all vertebrates. Ten helical regions of the RNA are universally conserved while other regions vary significantly in length and sequence between different classes of vertebrates. The proposed vertebrate telomerase RNA structure displays a strikingly similar topology to the previously determined ciliate telomerase RNA structure, implying an evolutionary conservation of the global architecture of telomerase RNA.