Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT)—the catalytic subunit of telomerase—is reactivated in up to 90% of all human cancers. TERT is observed in heterogenous populations of protein complexes, which are dynamically regulated in a cell type- and cell cycle-specific manner. Over the past two decades, in vitro protein–protein interaction detection methods have discovered a number of endogenous TERT binding partners in human cells that are responsible for the biogenesis and functionalization of the telomerase holoenzyme, including the processes of TERT trafficking between subcellular compartments, assembly into telomerase, and catalytic action at telomeres. Additionally, TERT have been found to interact with protein species with no known telomeric functions, suggesting that these complexes may contribute to non-canonical activities of TERT. Here, we survey TERT direct binding partners and discuss their contributions to TERT biogenesis and functions. The goal is to review the comprehensive spectrum of TERT pro-malignant activities, both telomeric and non-telomeric, which may explain the prevalence of its upregulation in cancer.
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