Researchers have the molecular structure of telomerase. This should speed up the discovery of the best activators and inhibitors of telomerase.
Good activators of telomerase has been shown to boost the lifespan of mice by 20%.
The enzyme telomerase adds telomeric repeats to chromosome ends to balance the loss of telomeres during genome replication. Telomerase regulation has been implicated in cancer, other human diseases, and ageing, but progress towards clinical manipulation of telomerase has been hampered by the lack of structural data. Here we present the cryo-electron microscopy structure of the substrate-bound human telomerase holoenzyme at subnanometre resolution, showing two flexibly RNA-tethered lobes: the catalytic core with telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and conserved motifs of telomerase RNA (hTR), and an H/ACA ribonucleoprotein (RNP). In the catalytic core, RNA encircles TERT, adopting a well-ordered tertiary structure with surprisingly limited protein–RNA interactions. The H/ACA RNP lobe comprises two sets of heterotetrameric H/ACA proteins and one Cajal body protein, TCAB1, representing a pioneering structure of a large eukaryotic family of ribosome and spliceosome biogenesis factors. Our findings provide a structural framework for understanding human telomerase disease mutations and represent an important step towards telomerase-related clinical therapeutics.