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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jan 25;283(4):2049-59. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

Structure and function of the smallest vertebrate telomerase RNA from teleost fish.

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Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.


Telomerase extends chromosome ends by copying a short template sequence within its intrinsic RNA component. Telomerase RNA (TR) from different groups of species varies dramatically in sequence and size. We report here the bioinformatic identification, secondary structure comparison, and functional analysis of the smallest known vertebrate TRs from five teleost fishes. The teleost TRs (312-348 nucleotides) are significantly smaller than the cartilaginous fish TRs (478-559 nucleotides) and tetrapod TRs. This remarkable length reduction of teleost fish TRs correlates positively with the genome size, reflecting an unusual structural plasticity of TR during evolution. The teleost TR consists of a compact three-domain structure, lacking most of the sequences in regions that are variable in other vertebrate TR structures. The medaka and fugu TRs, when assembled with their telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) protein counterparts, reconstituted active and processive telomerase enzymes. Titration analysis of individual RNA domains suggests that the efficient assembly of the telomerase complex is influenced more by the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) binding of the CR4-CR5 domain than the pseudoknot domain of TR. The remarkably small teleost fish TR further expands our understanding about the evolutionary divergence of vertebrate TR.

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