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Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Aug 8. pii: gkz695. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz695. [Epub ahead of print]

Telomerase RNAs in land plants.

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Department of Cell Biology and Radiobiology, Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, v.v.i., Brno CZ-61265, Czech Republic.
Laboratory of Functional Genomics and Proteomics, NCBR, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno CZ-61137, Czech Republic.
Mendel Centre for Plant Genomics and Proteomics, CEITEC, Masaryk University, Brno CZ-62500, Czech Republic.
Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna, Dr. Bohr Gasse 9, A-1030, Vienna, Austria.


To elucidate the molecular nature of evolutionary changes of telomeres in the plant order Asparagales, we aimed to characterize telomerase RNA subunits (TRs) in these plants. The unusually long telomere repeat unit in Allium plants (12 nt) allowed us to identify TRs in transcriptomic data of representative species of the Allium genus. Orthologous TRs were then identified in Asparagales plants harbouring telomere DNA composed of TTAGGG (human type) or TTTAGGG (Arabidopsis-type) repeats. Further, we identified TRs across the land plant phylogeny, including common model plants, crop plants, and plants with unusual telomeres. Several lines of functional testing demonstrate the templating telomerase function of the identified TRs and disprove a functionality of the only previously reported plant telomerase RNA in Arabidopsis thaliana. Importantly, our results change the existing paradigm in plant telomere biology which has been based on the existence of a relatively conserved telomerase reverse transcriptase subunit (TERT) associating with highly divergent TRs even between closely related plant taxa. The finding of a monophyletic origin of genuine TRs across land plants opens the possibility to identify TRs directly in transcriptomic or genomic data and/or predict telomere sequences synthesized according to the respective TR template region.


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