Pseudoknot structures with conserved base triples in telomerase RNAs of ciliates

Nikolai B. Ulyanov*, Kinneret Shefer, Thomas L. James, Yehuda Tzfati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Telomerase maintains the integrity of telomeres, the ends of linear chromosomes, by adding G-rich repeats to their 3′-ends. Telomerase RNA is an integral component of telomerase. It contains a template for the synthesis of the telomeric repeats by the telomerase reverse transcriptase. Although telomerase RNAs of different organisms are very diverse in their sequences, a functional non-template element, a pseudoknot, was predicted in all of them. Pseudoknot elements in human and the budding yeast Kluyveromyces lactis telomerase RNAs contain unusual triple-helical segments with AUU base triples, which are critical for telomerase function. Such base triples in ciliates have not been previously reported. We analyzed the pseudoknot sequences in 28 ciliate species and classified them in six different groups based on the lengths of the stems and loops composing the pseudoknot. Using miniCarlo, a helical parameter-based modeling program, we calculated 3D models for a representative of each morphological group. In all cases, the predicted structure contains at least one AUU base triple in stem 2, except for that of Colpidium colpoda, which contains unconventional GCG and AUA triples. These results suggest that base triples in a pseudoknot element are a conserved feature of all telomerases.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6150-6160
Number of pages11
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Zhihua Du, Noa Gil and Victor Zhurkin for careful reading of the manuscript and helpful discussions. This work was supported by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (2005088 to NBU and YT) and by the National Institutes of Health (AI46967 to TLJ). The use of the University of California, San Francisco Computer Graphics Laboratory facilities was supported by the NIH (P41 RR-01081). Funding to pay the Open Access publication charges for this article was provided by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (2005088).


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