Different modes of de novo telomere formation by plant telomerases. Academic Article uri icon


  • The telomerase reverse transcriptase can recognize broken chromosome ends and add new telomeres de novo in a reaction termed "chromosome healing". Here we investigate new telomere formation in vitro by telomerases from a variety of flowering plant species. Comparing the electrophoretic mobilities and nucleotide sequences of the products, we uncovered three different modes of new telomere formation. The soybean telomerase, designated a Class I enzyme, only elongated DNA primers ending in telomeric nucleotides. Arabidopsis and maize telomerases, designated Class II enzymes, efficiently extended completely non-telomeric sequences by positioning the 3' terminus at a preferred site on the RNA template. Silene latifolia and sorghum telomerases constituted class III enzymes that elongated non-telomeric DNA primers by annealing them at alternative sites on the RNA template. For all enzymes, errors were prevalent during synthesis of the first two repeats, likely reflecting lateral instability of the primer 3' terminus on the template during the initial rounds of elongation. Class III telomerases, however, were five- to 13-fold more error prone than class II, generating more mistakes in distal repeats added to the primers. This remarkable variability in enzyme-DNA interactions among plant telomerases does not reflect phylogenetic relationships, and therefore implies that the telomerase active site can evolve rapidly.

published proceedings

  • Plant J

author list (cited authors)

  • Fitzgerald, M. S., Shakirov, E. V., Hood, E. E., McKnight, T. D., & Shippen, D. E.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Fitzgerald, MS||Shakirov, EV||Hood, EE||McKnight, TD||Shippen, DE

publication date

  • April 2001