Mapping the RNA-protein interface in telomerase RNP

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In the 1970s James Watson recognized the inability of conventional DNA replication machinery to replicate the extreme termini of chromosomes known as telomeres. This inability is due to the requirement of a building block primer and was termed the

In the 1970s James Watson recognized the inability of conventional DNA replication machinery to replicate the extreme termini of chromosomes known as telomeres. This inability is due to the requirement of a building block primer and was termed the end replication problem. Telomerase is nature's answer to the end replication problem. Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein which extends telomeres through reverse transcriptase activity by reiteratively copying a short intrinsic RNA sequence to generate 3' telomeric extensions. Telomeres protect chromosomes from erosion of coding genes during replication, as well as differentiate native chromosome ends from double stranded breaks. However, controlled erosion of telomeres functions as a naturally occurring molecular clock limiting the replicative capacity of cells. Telomerase is over activated in many cancers, while inactivation leads to multiple lifespan limiting human diseases. In order to further study the interaction between telomerase RNA (TR) and telomerase reverse transcriptase protein (TERT), vertebrate TERT fragments were screened for solubility and purity following bacterial expression. Soluble fragments of medaka TERT including the RNA binding domain (TRBD) were identified. Recombinant medaka TRBD binds specifically to telomerase RNA CR4/CR5 region. Ribonucleotide and amino acid pairs in close proximity within the medaka telomerase RNA-protein complex were identified using photo-activated cross-linking in conjunction with mass spectrometry. The identified cross-linking amino acids were mapped on known crystal structures of TERTs to reveal the RNA interaction interface of TRBD. The identification of this RNA TERT interaction interface furthers the understanding of the telomerase complex at a molecular level and could be used for the targeted interruption of the telomerase complex as a potential cancer treatment.