• DNA damage;
  • DNA replication;
  • mouse model;
  • stem cell;
  • telomere

The proper maintenance of telomeres is essential for genome stability. Mammalian telomere maintenance is governed by a number of telomere binding proteins, including the newly identified CTC1–STN1–TEN1 (CST) complex. However, the in vivo functions of mammalian CST remain unclear. To address this question, we conditionally deleted CTC1 from mice. We report here that CTC1 null mice experience rapid onset of global cellular proliferative defects and die prematurely from complete bone marrow failure due to the activation of an ATR-dependent G2/M checkpoint. Acute deletion of CTC1 does not result in telomere deprotection, suggesting that mammalian CST is not involved in capping telomeres. Rather, CTC1 facilitates telomere replication by promoting efficient restart of stalled replication forks. CTC1 deletion results in increased loss of leading C-strand telomeres, catastrophic telomere loss and accumulation of excessive ss telomere DNA. Our data demonstrate an essential role for CTC1 in promoting efficient replication and length maintenance of telomeres.