Telomerase is a telomere dedicated reverse transcriptase that replicates the very ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomerase consists of TLC1 (the RNA template), Est2 (the catalytic subunit), and two accessory proteins, Est1 and Est3, that are essential in vivo for telomerase activity but are dispensable for catalysis in vitro. Est1 functions in both recruitment and activation of telomerase. The association of Est3 with telomeres occurred largely in late S/G2 phase, the time when telomerase acts and Est1 telomere binding occurs. Est3 telomere binding was Est1-dependent. This dependence is likely due to a direct interaction between the two proteins, as purified recombinant Est1 and Est3 interacted in vitro. Est3 abundance was neither cell cycle-regulated nor Est1-dependent. Est3 was the most abundant of the three Est proteins (84.3±13.3 molecules per cell versus 71.1±19.2 for Est1 and 37.2±6.5 for Est2), so its telomere association and/or activity is unlikely to be limited by its relative abundance. Est2 and Est1 telomere binding was unaffected by the absence of Est3. Taken together, these data indicate that Est3 acts downstream of both Est2 and Est1 and that the putative activation function of Est1 can be explained by its role in recruiting Est3 to telomeres.
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