Striking similarities in diverse telomerase proteins revealed by combining structure prediction and machine learning approaches.
ABSTRACT Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that adds telomeric DNA repeat sequences to the ends of linear chromosomes. The enzyme plays pivotal roles in cellular senescence and aging, and because it provides a telomere maintenance mechanism for approximately 90% of human cancers, it is a promising target for cancer therapy. Despite its importance, a high-resolution structure of the telomerase enzyme has been elusive, although a crystal structure of an N-terminal domain (TEN) of the telomerase reverse transcriptase subunit (TERT) from Tetrahymena has been reported. In this study, we used a comparative strategy, in which sequence-based machine learning approaches were integrated with computational structural modeling, to explore the potential conservation of structural and functional features of TERT in phylogenetically diverse species. We generated structural models of the N-terminal domains from human and yeast TERT using a combination of threading and homology modeling with the Tetrahymena TEN structure as a template. Comparative analysis of predicted and experimentally verified DNA and RNA binding residues, in the context of these structures, revealed significant similarities in nucleic acid binding surfaces of Tetrahymena and human TEN domains. In addition, the combined evidence from machine learning and structural modeling identified several specific amino acids that are likely to play a role in binding DNA or RNA, but for which no experimental evidence is currently available.
Article: An anchor site-type defect in human telomerase that disrupts telomere length maintenance and cellular immortalization.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Telomerase-mediated telomeric DNA synthesis is important for eukaryotic cell immortality. Telomerase adds tracts of short telomeric repeats to DNA substrates using a unique repeat addition form of processivity. It has been proposed that repeat addition processivity is partly regulated by a telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT)-dependent anchor site; however, anchor site-mediating residues have not been identified in any TERT. We report the characterization of an N-terminal human TERT (hTERT) RNA interaction domain 1 (RID1) mutation that caused telomerase activity defects consistent with disruption of a template-proximal anchor site, including reduced processivity on short telomeric primers and reduced activity on substrates with nontelomeric 5' sequences, but not on primers with nontelomeric G-rich 5' sequences. This mutation was located within a subregion of RID1 previously implicated in biological telomerase functions unrelated to catalytic activity (N-DAT domain). Other N-DAT and C-terminal DAT (C-DAT) mutants and a C-terminally tagged hTERT-HA variant were defective in elongating short telomeric primers, and catalytic phenotypes of DAT variants were partially or completely rescued by increasing concentrations of DNA primers. These observations imply that RID1 and the hTERT C terminus contribute to telomerase's affinity for its substrate, and that RID1 may form part of the human telomerase anchor site.Molecular Biology of the Cell 08/2005; 16(7):3152-61. · 4.94 Impact Factor