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Nucleic Acids Res. 2007;35(18):6280-9. Epub 2007 Sep 13.

A critical three-way junction is conserved in budding yeast and vertebrate telomerase RNAs.

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Department of Genetics, The Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Givat Ram, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel.


The telomerase ribonucleoprotein copies a short template within its integral RNA moiety onto eukaryotic chromosome ends, compensating for incomplete replication and degradation. Non-template regions of telomerase RNA (TER) are also crucial for telomerase function, yet they are highly divergent in sequence among species and their roles are largely unclear. Using both phylogenetic and mutational analyses, we predicted secondary structures for TERs from Kluyveromyces budding yeast species. A comparison of these secondary structure models with the published model for the Saccharomyces cerevisiae TER reveals a common arrangement into three long arms, a templating domain in the center and several conserved elements in the same positions within the structure. One of them, a three-way junction element, is highly conserved in budding yeast TERs. This element also shows sequence and structure similarity to the critical CR4-CR5 activating domain of vertebrate TERs. Mutational analysis in Kluyveromyces lactis confirmed that this element, and in particular the residues conserved across yeast and vertebrates, is critical for telomerase action both in vivo and in vitro. These findings demonstrate that despite the extreme divergence of TER sequences from different organisms, they do share conserved elements, which presumably carry out common roles in telomerase function.

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