Biogenesis of telomerase RNA from a protein-coding mRNA precursor

Dhenugen Logeswaran, Yang Li, Khadiza Akhter, Joshua D. Podlevsky, Tamara L. Olson, Katherine Forsberg, Julian J.L. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Telomerase is a eukaryotic ribonucleoprotein (RNP) enzyme that adds DNA repeats onto chromosome ends to maintain genomic stability and confer cellular immortality in cancer and stem cells. The telomerase RNA (TER) component is essential for telomerase catalytic activity and provides the template for telomeric DNA synthesis. The biogenesis of TERs is extremely divergent across eukaryotic kingdoms, employing distinct types of transcription machinery and processing pathways. In ciliates and plants, TERs are transcribed by RNA polymerase III (Pol III), while animal and ascomycete fungal TERs are transcribed by RNA Pol II and share biogenesis pathways with small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) and small nuclear RNA (snRNA), respectively. Here, we report an unprecedented messenger RNA (mRNA)-derived biogenesis pathway for the 1,291 nucleotide TER from the basidiomycete fungus Ustilago maydis. The U. maydis TER (UmTER) contains a 5'-monophosphate, distinct from the 5' 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap common to animal and ascomycete fungal TERs. The mature UmTER is processed from the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of a larger RNA precursor that possesses characteristics of mRNA including a 5' 7-methyl-guanosine (m7G) cap, alternative splicing of introns, and a poly(A) tail. Moreover, this mRNA transcript encodes a protein called Early meiotic induction protein 1 (Emi1) that is conserved across dikaryotic fungi. A recombinant UmTER precursor expressed from an mRNA promoter is processed correctly to yield mature UmTER, confirming an mRNA-processing pathway for producing TER. Our findings expand the plethora of TER biogenesis mechanisms and demonstrate a pathway for producing a functional long noncoding RNA from a protein-coding mRNA precursor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2204636119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 11 2022


  • RNA processing
  • basidiomycete
  • ncRNA
  • telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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