Rhodospirillum rubrum L-asparaginase mutant E149R, V150P, F151T (RrA) down-regulates telomerase activity due to its ability to inhibit the expression of telomerase catalytic subunit hTERT. The aim of this study was to define the effect of short-term and long-term RrA exposure on proliferation of cancer Jurkat cell line and normal human CD4+ T lymphocytes. RrA could inhibit telomerase activity in dose- and time-dependent manner in both Jurkat and normal CD4+ T cells. Continuous RrA exposure of these cells resulted in shortening of telomeres followed by cell cycle inhibition, replicative senescence, and development of apoptosis. Complete death of Jurkat cells was observed at the day 25 of RrA exposure while normal CD4+ T cells died at the day 50 due to the initial longer length of telomeres. Removal of RrA from senescent cells led to a reactivation of hTERT expression, restoration telomerase activity, re-elongation of telomeres after 48 h of cultivation, and survival of cells. These findings demonstrate that proliferation of cancer and normal telomerase-positive cells can be limited by continuous telomerase inhibition with RrA. Longer telomeres of normal CD4+ T lymphocytes make such cells more sustainable to RrA exposure that could give them an advantage during anti-telomerase therapy. These results should facilitate further investigations of RrA as a potent anti-telomerase therapeutic protein. © 2017 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.