Telomere length, an important feature of life span control, is dependent on the activity of telomerase (a key enzyme of the telomere-length-maintaining system). Telomerase RNA is a component of telomerase and, thus, is crucial for its activity. The structures of telomerase RNA genes and their promoter regions were compared for the long-living naked mole rat and different organisms. Two rare polymorphisms in Heterocephalus glaber telomerase RNA (hgTER) were identified: A→G in the first loop of pseudoknot P2b-p3 (an equivalent of 111nt in hTR) and G→A in the scaRNA domain CR7-p8b (an equivalent of 421nt in hTR). Analysis of TER promoter regions allowed us to identify two new transcription factor binding sites. The first one is the ETS family site, which was found to be a conserved element for all the analyzed TER promoters. The second site is unique for the promoter region of TER of the naked mole rat and is a binding site for the SOX17 transcription factor. The absence of one Sp1 site in the TER promoter region of the naked small rat is an additional specific feature of the promoter area of hgTER. Such variation in the hgTER transcription regulation region and hgTER itself could provide increased telomerase activity in stem cells and an extended lifespan to H. glaber.
Keywords: H. glaber; bioinformatics; comparative genomics.; promoter analysis; telomerase RNA.