Evolutionary perspectives of telomerase RNA structure and function

Joshua D. Podlevsky, Julian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Telomerase is the eukaryotic solution to the ‘end-replication problem’ of linear chromosomes by synthesising the highly repetitive DNA constituent of telomeres, the nucleoprotein cap that protects chromosome termini. Functioning as a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) enzyme, telomerase is minimally composed of the highly conserved catalytic telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and essential telomerase RNA (TR) component. Beyond merely providing the template for telomeric DNA synthesis, TR is an innate telomerase component and directly facilitates enzymatic function. TR accomplishes this by having evolved structural elements for stable assembly with the TERT protein and the regulation of the telomerase catalytic cycle. Despite its prominence and prevalence, TR has profoundly diverged in length, sequence, and biogenesis pathway among distinct evolutionary lineages. This diversity has generated numerous structural and mechanistic solutions for ensuring proper RNP formation and high fidelity telomeric DNA synthesis. Telomerase provides unique insights into RNA and protein coevolution within RNP enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-732
Number of pages13
JournalRNA Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2 2016


  • DNA replication
  • end-replication problem
  • evolution
  • polymerase
  • ribonucleoprotein
  • telomerase
  • telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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