A 4-Base-Pair Core-Enclosing Helix in Telomerase RNA Is Essential for Activity and for Binding to the Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Catalytic Protein Subunit

Melissa A. Mefford, Evan P. Hass, David C. Zappulla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The telomerase ribonucleoprotein (RNP) counters the chromosome end replication problem, completing genome replication to prevent cellular senescence in yeast, humans, and most other eukaryotes. The telomerase RNP core enzyme is composed of a dedicated RNA subunit and a reverse transcriptase (telomerase reverse transcriptase [TERT]). Although the majority of the 1,157-nucleotide (nt) Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomerase RNA, TLC1, is rapidly evolving, the central catalytic core is largely conserved, containing the template, template-boundary helix, pseudoknot, and core-enclosing helix (CEH). Here, we show that 4 bp of core-enclosing helix is required for telomerase to be active in vitro and to maintain yeast telomeres in vivo, whereas the ΔCEH and 1- and 2-bp alleles do not support telomerase function. Using the CRISPR/nuclease-deactivated Cas9 (dCas9)-based CARRY (CRISPR-assisted RNA–RNA-binding protein [RBP] yeast) two-hybrid assay to assess binding of our CEH mutant RNAs to TERT, we find that the 4-bp CEH RNA binds to TERT but the shorter-CEH constructs do not, consistent with the telomerase activity and in vivo complementation results. Thus, the CEH is essential in yeast telomerase RNA because it is needed to bind TERT to form the core RNP enzyme. Although the 8 nt that form this 4-bp stem at the base of the CEH are nearly invariant among Saccharomyces species, our results with sequence-randomized and truncated-CEH helices suggest that this binding interaction with TERT is dictated more by secondary than by primary structure. In summary, we have mapped an essential binding site in telomerase RNA for TERT that is crucial to form the catalytic core of this biomedically important RNP enzyme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00239-20
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Volume40
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • RNA
  • RNP
  • Senescence
  • Telomerase
  • Telomerase RNA
  • Telomere
  • TERT
  • TLC1
  • Two-hybrid screening
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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