Telomere Length Regulation Unit, Children's Medical Research Institute

Lab head: A/Prof. Hilda Pickett
Location: Children's Medical Research Institute, Westmead

Telomeres are structures at the ends of linear chromosomes that maintain chromosome integrity. The Telomere Length Regulation Unit investigates the intricate balance between telomere lengthening and shortening processes, which ultimately determines the proliferative capacity of a cell. Telomere length dysregulation can result in cancer, or in an emerging spectrum of premature aging disorders.

Funding: NHMRC, Cancer Council NSW
Research approach equipment: molecular biology advanced microscopy tissue culture cell biology biochemistry bioinformatics

A current list of A/Prof Pickett’s publications can be found on her Sydney Medical School profile page.

Investigating the role of a novel RNA binding protein in telomerase activity

Primary supervisor: Hilda Pickett

We have identified a role for a novel RNA binding protein in telomerase biogenesis and recruitment to telomeres. We aim to investigate how this protein functions in this context using fluorescence microscopy and live cell imaging, as well as telomere molecular biology and proteomics approaches.

Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures at the ends of linear chromosomes that function to maintain chromosome integrity. Telomere maintenance is vital for the increased proliferative capacity of normal human germline, embryogenic and stem cells, and for the continued growth of tumour cells. Approximately 85% of cancer cells maintain their telomeres by activating the enzyme telomerase, which uses its integral RNA template subunit to reverse transcribe telomeric DNA onto chromosome termini. Consequently, telomerase represents an important therapeutic target for all types of cancers. However, the mechanisms underlying telomerase activation, biogenesis and recruitment to chromosome ends are not fully understood. Using a proteomics approach, we have identified a novel protein that binds to the RNA component of telomerase, which we hypothesise is required for correct telomerase assembly. We aim to characterise how this protein impacts on telomerase activity and telomere length, and to determine whether this protein can be targeted as a means to prevent telomere elongation and cancer cell proliferation.

Discipline: Applied Medical Sciences, Westmead
Co-supervisors: Dr Alexander Sobinoff
Keywords: Telomere, Telomerase, Cancer