Identification of purple sea urchin telomerase RNA using a next-generation sequencing based approach

Yang Li, Joshua D. Podlevsky, Manja Marz, Xiaodong Qi, Steve Hoffmann, Peter F. Stadler, Julian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) enzyme essential for telomere maintenance and chromosome stability. While the catalytic telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) protein is well conserved across eukaryotes, telomerase RNA (TR) is extensively divergent in size, sequence, and structure. This diversity prohibits TR identification from many important organisms. Here we report a novel approach for TR discovery that combines in vitro TR enrichment from total RNA, next-generation sequencing, and a computational screening pipeline. With this approach, we have successfully identified TR from Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (purple sea urchin) from the phylum Echinodermata. Reconstitution of activity in vitro confirmed that this RNA is an integral component of sea urchin telomerase. Comparative phylogenetic analysis against vertebrate TR sequences revealed that the purple sea urchin TR contains vertebrate-like template-pseudoknot and H/ACA domains. While lacking a vertebrate-like CR4/5 domain, sea urchin TR has a unique central domain critical for telomerase activity. This is the first TR identified from the previously unexplored invertebrate clade and provides the first glimpse of TR evolution in the deuterostome lineage. Moreover, our TR discovery approach is a significant step toward the comprehensive understanding of telomerase RNP evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-860
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Ribonucleoprotein
  • Telomerase RNA
  • Telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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