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Keywords:

  • telomerase;
  • telomere;
  • TRAP (telomeric repeat amplification protocol);
  • insect.

Telomeres of most insects consist of pentanucleotide (TTAGG)n repeats, although the repeats are absent in Diptera and some other insect species, where the telomere regions are perhaps maintained without telomerase. To understand various and unusual telomere formation in insects, we have studied the characteristic features of a putative insect telomerase that has not been previously described. Using a modified telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP), we first detected the telomerase activity in crickets, cockroaches and two Lepidopteran insects. The telomerase from crickets and cockroaches required dATP, dGTP and dTTP but not dCTP as a substrate and sequence analyses of the products of TRAP revealed that the (TTAGG)n repeats are synthesized by telomerase. The cockroach telomerase was detected both in somatic (fat body, muscle and neural tissues) and germ line (testis) cells, suggesting that expression of this enzyme is not regulated in a tissue-specific manner at an adult stage. While we detected high levels of telomerase activity in crickets and cockroaches, we could not detect activity in all tissues and cell cultures of the silkworm, Bombyx mori and in two Drosophila and one Sarcophaga cell lines. This supports the theory that Dipteran insects maintain their telomeres without telomerase.