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Telomerase Is a True Reverse Transcriptase. A Review

T. R. Cech,1,2 T. M. Nakamura,1 and J. Lingner3

1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0215, USA.

2To whom correspondence should be addressed.

3Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, 1066 Epalinges/VD, Switzerland.

Submitted August 15, 1997.
Synthesis of telomeric repeats at chromosome ends requires telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein enzyme. The RNA subunit, which contains the template for DNA synthesis, has been identified in many organisms. Recently, the protein subunit that catalyzes telomeric DNA extension has also been identified in Euplotes aediculatus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It has sequence and functional characteristics of a reverse transcriptase related to retrotransposon and retroviral reverse transcriptases, so this new family of telomerase subunits has been named TRT (Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase). We find it remarkable that the same type of protein structure required for retroviral replication is now seen to be essential for normal chromosome telomere replication in diverse eukaryotes.
KEY WORDS: telomere, telomerase, chromosome, DNA replication, reverse transcriptase, Euplotes aediculatus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Tetrahymena thermophila, Drosophila melanogaster.