Telomerase, the enzyme that extends single-stranded telomeric DNA, consists of an RNA subunit (TER) including a short template sequence, a catalytic protein (TERT) and accessory proteins. We used site-specific UV cross-linking to map the binding sites for DNA primers in TER within active Tetrahymena telomerase holoenzyme complexes. The mapping was performed at single-nucleotide resolution by a novel technique based on RNase H digestion of RNA-DNA hybrids made with overlapping complementary oligodeoxynucleotides. These data allowed tracing of the DNA path through the telomerase complexes from the template to the TERT binding element (TBE) region of TER. TBE is known to bind TERT and to be involved in the template 5'-boundary definition. Based on these findings, we propose that upstream sequences of each growing telomeric DNA chain are involved in regulation of its growth arrest at the 5'-end of the RNA template. The upstream DNA-TBE interaction may also function as an anchor for the subsequent realignment of the 3'-end of the DNA with the 3'-end of the template to enable initiation of synthesis of a new telomeric repeat.
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