The Xenopus telomerase catalytic component gene, xTERT (Xenopus telomerase reverse transcriptase), has been cloned. The production of xTERT recombinant protein together with the proposed Xenopus telomerase RNA (xTR) (Chen et al., 2000. Cell 100, 503-514) in a rabbit reticulocyte lysate system led to the reconstitution of active telomerase, indicating that both products are functional telomerase components. Both xTERT expression and telomerase activity are high from the early to the late blastula stage. However, they are decreased at the gastrula stage and thereafter, suggesting that the xTERT expression level is the primary mechanism for regulating telomerase activity in Xenopus development. This is the first report of a non-mammalian vertebrate TERT gene. Sequence comparison of xTERT with human and mouse TERTs has uncovered four regions conserved in the amino-terminal halves of vertebrate TERT proteins, the functions of which will be discussed herein.