Telomerase RNA accumulates in Cajal bodies in human cancer cells

Mol Biol Cell. 2004 Jan;15(1):81-90. doi: 10.1091/mbc.e03-07-0525. Epub 2003 Oct 3.


Telomerase synthesizes telomeric DNA repeats at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. The RNA component of the enzyme (hTR) provides the template for telomere synthesis, which is catalyzed by telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). Little is known regarding the subcellular localization of hTR and hTERT and the pathway by which telomerase is assembled. Here we report the first glimpse of the detailed subcellular localization of endogenous hTR in human cells, which we obtained by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Our studies have revealed a distinctive hTR localization pattern in cancer cells. We have found that hTR accumulates within intranuclear foci called Cajal bodies in all typical tumor-derived cell lines examined (in which telomerase is active), but not in primary or ALT cells (where little or no hTERT is present). Accumulation of hTR in the Cajal bodies of primary cells is induced when hTERT is ectopically expressed. Moreover, we report that hTERT is also found in Cajal bodies. Our data suggest that Cajal bodies are involved in the assembly and/or function of human telomerase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Compartmentation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coiled Bodies / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Male
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Telomerase / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • telomerase RNA
  • RNA
  • Telomerase