Scientists see inner workings of enzyme telomerase, which plays key roles in aging, cancer
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IMAGE: This is an image of telomerase’s catalytic core view more 

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Credit: Juli Feigon, et al./UCLA/Cell

Cancer, aging-related diseases and other illnesses are closely tied to an important enzyme called “telomerase.” UCLA researchers report in the journal Cell the deepest scientific understanding yet of this once-mysterious enzyme, whose catalytic core — where most of its activity occurs — can now be seen in near atomic resolution.

report in the journal Cell

“We’re now seeing not just the face of the clock, we’re seeing how the components inside interact to make it work,” said Juli Feigon, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College and a senior author of the study. “At each step, we zoom in closer and see more and more details, and can now begin to deduce not just what the enzyme looks like, but also how it functions. Knowing that may lead to the development of new drugs that target specific parts of the enzyme.”

In addition to reporting the highest level of detail ever seen of the structure of telomerase’s catalytic core, shown in the animation below, the researchers report for the first time they have captured telomerase in the process of making DNA.

“For the first time, we have

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