Structure and folding of the Tetrahymena telomerase RNA pseudoknot
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkw1153
Telomerase maintains telomere length at the ends of linear chromosomes using an integral telomerase RNA (TER) and telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). An essential part of TER is the template/pseudoknot domain (t/PK) which includes the template, for adding telomeric repeats, template boundary element (TBE), and pseudoknot, enclosed in a circle by stem 1. The Tetrahymena telomerase holoenzyme catalytic core (p65-TER-TERT) was recently modeled in our 9 Å resolution cryo-electron microscopy map by fitting protein and TER domains, including a solution NMR structure of the Tetrahymena pseudoknot. Here, we describe in detail the structure and folding of the isolated pseudoknot, which forms a compact structure with major groove U•A-U and novel C•G-A+ base triples. Base substitutions that disrupt the base triples reduce telomerase activity in vitro NMR studies also reveal that the pseudoknot does not form in the context of full-length TER in the absence of TERT, due to formation of a competing structure that sequesters pseudoknot residues. The residues around the TBE remain unpaired, potentially providing access by TERT to this high affinity binding site during an early step in TERT-TER assembly. A model for the assembly pathway of the catalytic core is proposed.