Telomerase RNA stem terminus element affects template boundary element function, telomere sequence, and shelterin binding.
The stem terminus element (STE), which was discovered 13 y ago in human telomerase RNA, is required for telomerase activity, yet its mode of action is unknown. We report that the Schizosaccharomyces pombe telomerase RNA, TER1 (telomerase RNA 1), also contains a STE, which is essential for telomere maintenance. Cells expressing a partial loss-of-function TER1 STE allele maintained short stable telomeres by a recombination-independent mechanism. Remarkably, the mutant telomere sequence was different from that of wild-type cells. Generation of the altered sequence is explained by reverse transcription into the template boundary element, demonstrating that the STE helps maintain template boundary element function. The altered telomeres bound less Pot1 (protection of telomeres 1) and Taz1 (telomere-associated in Schizosaccharomyces pombe 1) in vivo. Thus, the S. pombe STE, although distant from the template, ensures proper telomere sequence, which in turn promotes proper assembly of the shelterin complex.