Telomerase maintains the simple sequence repeats at chromosome ends, protecting cells from genomic rearrangement, proliferative senescence and death. The telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and telomerase RNA (TER) alone can assemble into active enzyme in a heterologous cell extract, but the physiological process of telomerase biogenesis is more complex. The endogenous accumulation of Tetrahymena thermophila TERT and TER requires an additional telomerase holoenzyme protein, p65. Here, we reconstitute this cellular pathway for telomerase ribonucleoprotein biogenesis in vitro. We demonstrate that tandem RNA interaction domains in p65 recognize the sequence of the TER 3' stem. Notably, the p65-TER complex recruits TERT much more efficiently than does TER alone. Using bacterially expressed p65 and TERT polypeptides, we show that p65 enhances TERT-TER interaction by a mechanism involving a conserved bulge in the protein-bridging TER molecule. These findings reveal a pathway for telomerase holoenzyme biogenesis that preassembles TER for TERT recruitment.
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