Current Perspectives of Telomerase Structure and Function in Eukaryotes with Emerging Views on Telomerase in Human Parasites

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan 24;19(2):333. doi: 10.3390/ijms19020333.


Replicative capacity of a cell is strongly correlated with telomere length regulation. Aberrant lengthening or reduction in the length of telomeres can lead to health anomalies, such as cancer or premature aging. Telomerase is a master regulator for maintaining replicative potential in most eukaryotic cells. It does so by controlling telomere length at chromosome ends. Akin to cancer cells, most single-cell eukaryotic pathogens are highly proliferative and require persistent telomerase activity to maintain constant length of telomere and propagation within their host. Although telomerase is key to unlimited cellular proliferation in both cases, not much was known about the role of telomerase in human parasites (malaria, Trypanosoma, etc.) until recently. Since telomerase regulation is mediated via its own structural components, interactions with catalytic reverse transcriptase and several factors that can recruit and assemble telomerase to telomeres in a cell cycle-dependent manner, we compare and discuss here recent findings in telomerase biology in cancer, aging and parasitic diseases to give a broader perspective of telomerase function in human diseases.

Keywords: DNA repair; Plasmodium falciparum; RNA; RNP; TER; TERT; Trypanosoma brucei; ageing; cancer; cellular senescence; parasite; telomerase; telomere.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Eukaryota / enzymology*
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Parasites / enzymology*
  • Parasites / genetics
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Telomerase / chemistry*
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • RNA
  • Telomerase