Nature communications

CTC1-STN1 terminates telomerase while STN1-TEN1 enables C-strand synthesis during telomere replication in colon cancer cells.

PMID 30026550


Telomerase elongates the telomeric G-strand to prevent telomere shortening through conventional DNA replication. However, synthesis of the complementary C-strand by DNA polymerase α is also required to maintain telomere length. Polymerase α cannot perform this role without the ssDNA binding complex CST (CTC1-STN1-TEN1). Here we describe the roles of individual CST subunits in telomerase regulation and G-overhang maturation in human colon cancer cells. We show that CTC1-STN1 limits telomerase action to prevent G-overhang overextension. CTC1-/- cells exhibit telomeric DNA damage and growth arrest due to overhang elongation whereas TEN1-/- cells do not. However, TEN1 is essential for C-strand synthesis and TEN1-/- cells exhibit progressive telomere shortening. DNA binding analysis indicates that CTC1-STN1 retains affinity for ssDNA but TEN1 stabilizes binding. We propose CTC1-STN1 binding is sufficient to terminate telomerase action but altered DNA binding dynamics renders CTC1-STN1 unable to properly engage polymerase α on the overhang for C-strand synthesis.