Science 1997 Aug;277(5328):955-9
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0215, USA.
Catalytic protein subunits of telomerase from the ciliate Euplotes aediculatus and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae contain reverse transcriptase motifs. Here the homologous genes from the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and human are identified. Disruption of the S. pombe gene resulted in telomere shortening and senescence, and expression of mRNA from the human gene correlated with telomerase activity in cell lines. Sequence comparisons placed the telomerase proteins in the reverse transcriptase family but revealed hallmarks that distinguish them from retroviral and retrotransposon relatives. Thus, the proposed telomerase catalytic subunits are phylogenetically conserved and represent a deep branch in the evolution of reverse transcriptases.