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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • mouse models;
  • telomeres

Summary

Coats plus is a rare recessive disorder characterized by intracranial calcifications, hematological abnormalities, and retinal vascular defects. This disease results from mutations in CTC1, a member of the CTC1–STN1–TEN1 (CST) complex critical for telomere replication. Telomeres are specialized DNA/protein structures essential for the maintenance of genome stability. Several patients with Coats plus display critically shortened telomeres, suggesting that telomere dysfunction plays an important role in disease pathogenesis. These patients inherit CTC1 mutations in a compound heterozygous manner, with one allele encoding a frameshift mutant and the other a missense mutant. How these mutations impact upon telomere function is unknown. We report here the first biochemical characterization of human CTC1 mutations. We found that all CTC1 frameshift mutations generated truncated or unstable protein products, none of which were able to form a complex with STN1–TEN1 on telomeres, resulting in progressive telomere shortening and formation of fused chromosomes. Missense mutations are able to form the CST complex at telomeres, but their expression levels are often repressed by the frameshift mutants. Our results also demonstrate for the first time that CTC1 mutations promote telomere dysfunction by decreasing the stability of STN1 to reduce its ability to interact with DNA Polα, thus highlighting a previously unknown mechanism to induce telomere dysfunction.