Telomere protein complexes and interactions with telomerase in telomere maintenance

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:187-207. doi: 10.2741/3683.


Telomeres are the termini of linear chromosomes. They are composed of DNA and DNA-binding proteins critical for maintaining chromosome integrity and cellular function. Telomere binding proteins regulate the structure and function of telomeres through the formation of different complexes with telomeric DNA. Double- and single-stranded telomeric DNA binding protein complexes have shared and unique functions that regulate telomere homeostasis. Recent studies have shown that telomerase interacts with several telomere-binding protein complexes including shelterin, CST, DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) and MRN. The present review describes the recognised telomere-binding protein complexes, sub-complex exchanges and inter-complex molecular interactions. It also discusses the evidence suggesting that telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) switches between different complexes. Studies of the telomere protein inter-complex interactions and the switching of components between complexes provide insight into their fundamental roles of programming telomere length and configuration, and thus cell proliferative potential.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Telomerase / physiology*
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Cdc13 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins
  • shelterin, human
  • DNA
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase
  • Telomerase