Single-Molecule and Super-Resolution Fluorescence Studies of the Structure and Function of Telomerase and Telomere

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Single-Molecule and Super-Resolution Fluorescence Studies of the Structure and Function of Telomerase and Telomere

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Title: Single-Molecule and Super-Resolution Fluorescence Studies of the Structure and Function of Telomerase and Telomere
Author: Wu, John Yanyun
Citation: Wu, John Yanyun. 2012. Single-Molecule and Super-Resolution Fluorescence Studies of the Structure and Function of Telomerase and Telomere. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Telomerase and telomere play crucial roles in the maintenance of genomic stability. Through its ability to extend chromosome ends with G-rich telomeric sequence, telomerase solves the end-replication problem of linear chromosomes and allows complete replication of the genetic information. Telomere along with its protein partners solves the end-protection problem and guards the chromosome ends against aberrant DNA damage response. In this thesis, I present two single-molecule fluorescence-based studies that determined the functional structure of telomerase RNA within active telomerase holoenzyme and probed the structure of telomere and its dependence on telomere binding proteins. In the first study, we developed a single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) assay to interrogate the structure of telomerase RNA within active telomerase enzymes. In this assay, oligonucleotide hybridization was used to probe the primer-extension activity of individual telomerase enzymes with single nucleotide sensitivity. FRET signals from individual enzyme molecules during active binding events were then used to determine the organization of telomerase RNA within active telomerase. Using this assay, we have identified an active conformation of telomerase in which the conserved telomerase RNA pseudoknot is properly folded. In the second study, we used super-resolution fluorescence technique STochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) to probe the structure of mammalian telomere. We showed that previously described telomere loop structures are detected by STORM imaging. Removal of telomere-binding protein TRF2 significantly reduces the fraction of telomeres found in loops. Furthermore, this reduction of telomere loops occurs in the absence of ATM-dependent DNA damage signaling and non-homologous end joining mediated chromosome fusion, suggesting a direct role of TRF2 in the formation or maintenance of telomere loops.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288419
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