Exclusion of exon 2 is a common mRNA splice variant of primate telomerase reverse transcriptases

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e48016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048016. Epub 2012 Oct 24.


Telomeric sequences are added by an enzyme called telomerase that is made of two components: a catalytic protein called telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and an integral RNA template (TR). Telomerase expression is tightly regulated at each step of gene expression, including alternative splicing of TERT mRNA. While over a dozen different alternative splicing events have been reported for human TERT mRNA, these were all in the 3' half of the coding region. We were interested in examining splicing of the 5' half of hTERT mRNA, especially since exon 2 is unusually large (1.3 kb). Internal mammalian exons are usually short, typically only 50 to 300 nucleotides, and most long internal exons are alternatively processed. We used quantitative RT-PCR and high-throughput sequencing data to examine the variety and quantity of mRNA species generated from the hTERT locus. We determined that there are approximately 20-40 molecules of hTERT mRNA per cell in the A431 human cell line. In addition, we describe an abundant, alternatively-spliced mRNA variant that excludes TERT exon 2 and was seen in other primates. This variant causes a frameshift and results in translation termination in exon 3, generating a 12 kDa polypeptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / enzymology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Exons / genetics*
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Phylogeny
  • Primates
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Splicing*
  • RNA, Messenger / classification
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Telomerase / genetics*
  • Telomerase / metabolism


  • Isoenzymes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA
  • Telomerase