Structure of Telomerase with Telomeric DNA

Jiansen Jiang, Yaqiang Wang, Lukas Sušac, Henry Chan, Ritwika Basu, Z. Hong Zhou, Juli Feigon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Telomerase is an RNA–protein complex (RNP) that extends telomeric DNA at the 3′ ends of chromosomes using its telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and integral template-containing telomerase RNA (TER). Its activity is a critical determinant of human health, affecting aging, cancer, and stem cell renewal. Lack of atomic models of telomerase, particularly one with DNA bound, has limited our mechanistic understanding of telomeric DNA repeat synthesis. We report the 4.8 Å resolution cryoelectron microscopy structure of active Tetrahymena telomerase bound to telomeric DNA. The catalytic core is an intricately interlocked structure of TERT and TER, including a previously structurally uncharacterized TERT domain that interacts with the TEN domain to physically enclose TER and regulate activity. This complete structure of a telomerase catalytic core and its interactions with telomeric DNA from the template to telomere-interacting p50–TEB complex provides unanticipated insights into telomerase assembly and catalytic cycle and a new paradigm for a reverse transcriptase RNP. The cryo-EM structure of active Tetrahymena telomerase bound to telomeric DNA reveals unique insights into the catalytic core and DNA handling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1190.e13
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 17 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • CST
  • IFD
  • Penelope-like element
  • TPP1-POT1
  • group II intron
  • non-coding RNA
  • repeat addition processivity
  • replication protein A
  • retrotransposase
  • telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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