Indexed on: 01 Nov '06Published on: 01 Nov '06Published in: Biochemistry
Telomerase is the ribonucleoprotein reverse transcriptase involved in the maintenance of the telomeres, the termini of eukaryotic chromosomes. The RNA component of human telomerase (hTR) consists of 451 nucleotides with the 5' half folding into a highly conserved catalytic core comprising the template region and an adjacent pseudoknot domain (nucleotides 1-208). While the secondary structure of hTR is established, there is little understanding of its three-dimensional (3D) architecture. Here, we have used fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between fluorescently labelled peptide nucleic acids, hybridized to defined single stranded regions of full length hTR, to evaluate long-range distances. Using molecular modeling, the distance constraints derived by FRET were subsequently used, together with the known secondary structure, to generate a 3D model of the catalytic core of hTR. An overlay of a large set of models generated has provided a low-resolution structure (6.5-8.0 A) that can readily be refined as new structural information becomes available. A notable feature of the modeled structure is the positioning of the template adjacent to the pseudoknot, which brings a number of conserved nucleotides close in space.