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New 3-D model of RNA 'core domain' of enzyme telomerase may offer clues to cancer, aging
Date:11/4/2010

inds of DNA damage and defects; that is why we don't want to have a high level of telomerase activity in most of our cells."

Because cancer cells divide rapidly, their telomeres should get shorter more quickly than normal cells. But while telomerase has low activity in most types of healthy cells in our bodies, the high level of telomerase activity in cancer cells helps rebuild the telomeres, Feigon said. These cancer cells, she said, "become immortal" because of their telomerase, which enables the cancer to progress.

"There is so much potential for treating disease if we understand how telomerase works," Feigon said.

She and members of her laboratory are studying its structure at a very detailed level, which provides insights into how telomerase functions. However, Feigon emphasized that her laboratory conducts basic scientific research and is not involved in cancer treatment.

The research was federally funded by the National Institutes of Health, with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, and the National Science Foundation.

The core domain consists of three pieces: a "pseudoknot" required for telomerase activity, at whose core three strands of RNA come together to form a triple helix; an "internal bulge loop," which had been largely ignored but turns out to be quite significant; and a "helical extension" all of which Feigon and her colleagues modeled using a new method they developed.

"We have the first useful model of the core domain of telomerase RNA," said Feigon, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. "We have put the three pieces together to produce a three-dimensional model of the core domain, the first time this has ever been done at a high resolution. This is exciting in terms of learning how telomerase works because it is the first time we have had a useful picture of the shape of this critical part of the RNA."

The new research, she said, could le
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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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