A transposable element within the Non-canonical telomerase RNA of Arabidopsis thaliana modulates telomerase in response to DNA damage [corrected]. Academic Article uri icon


  • Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have emerged as critical factors in many biological processes, but little is known about how their regulatory functions evolved. One of the best-studied lncRNAs is TER, the essential RNA template for telomerase reverse transcriptase. We previously showed that Arabidopsis thaliana harbors three TER isoforms: TER1, TER2 and TER2S. TER1 serves as a canonical telomere template, while TER2 is a novel negative regulator of telomerase activity, induced in response to double-strand breaks (DSBs). TER2 contains a 529 nt intervening sequence that is removed along with 36 nt at the RNA 3' terminus to generate TER2S, an RNA of unknown function. Here we investigate how A. thaliana TER2 acquired its regulatory function. Using data from the 1,001 Arabidopsis genomes project, we report that the intervening sequence within TER2 is derived from a transposable element termed DSB responsive element (DRE). DRE is found in the TER2 loci of most but not all A. thaliana accessions. By analyzing accessions with (TER2) and without DRE (TER2) we demonstrate that this element is responsible for many of the unique properties of TER2, including its enhanced binding to TERT and telomerase inhibitory function. We show that DRE destabilizes TER2, and further that TER2 induction by DNA damage reflects increased RNA stability and not increased transcription. DRE-mediated changes in TER2 stability thus provide a rapid and sensitive switch to fine-tune telomerase enzyme activity. Altogether, our data shows that invasion of the TER2 locus by a small transposon converted this lncRNA into a DNA damage sensor that modulates telomerase enzyme activity in response to genome assault.

published proceedings

  • PLoS Genet

author list (cited authors)

  • Xu, H., Nelson, A., & Shippen, D. E.

complete list of authors

  • Xu, Hengyi||Nelson, Andrew DL||Shippen, Dorothy E

editor list (cited editors)

  • Zhou, J.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015 11:11 AM