Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts

Cell. 1985 Dec;43(2 Pt 1):405-13. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(85)90170-9.


We have found a novel activity in Tetrahymena cell free extracts that adds tandem TTGGGG repeats onto synthetic telomere primers. The single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides (TTGGGG)4 and TGTGTGGGTGTGTGGGTGTGTGGG, consisting of the Tetrahymena and yeast telomeric sequences respectively, each functioned as primers for elongation, while (CCCCAA)4 and two nontelomeric sequence DNA oligomers did not. Efficient synthesis of the TTGGGG repeats depended only on addition of micromolar concentrations of oligomer primer, dGTP, and dTTP to the extract. The activity was sensitive to heat and proteinase K treatment. The repeat addition was independent of both endogenous Tetrahymena DNA and the endogenous alpha-type DNA polymerase; and a greater elongation activity was present during macronuclear development, when a large number of telomeres are formed and replicated, than during vegetative cell growth. We propose that the novel telomere terminal transferase is involved in the addition of telomeric repeats necessary for the replication of chromosome ends in eukaryotes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase / isolation & purification*
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases / isolation & purification*
  • DNA Polymerase II / physiology
  • DNA Replication
  • Models, Genetic
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Tetrahymena / enzymology*
  • Tetrahymena / genetics
  • Tetrahymena / ultrastructure


  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase
  • DNA Polymerase II