Telomere Length Regulation Unit, Children's Medical Research Institute

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

Telomeres regulate the lifespan of normal human cells, but become dysregulated in cancer cells. Our group is investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying telomere length control, and how these processes contribute to cancer.


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

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: Medical Sciences, Westmead
Co-supervisors: Roger Reddel
Keywords: Telomere, Telomerase, Cancer