How the replication machinery is loaded at origins of DNA replication is poorly understood. Here, we implicate in this process the Xenopus laevis homolog (xRTS) of the RECQL4 helicase mutated in Rothmund-Thomson syndrome. xRTS, which bears homology to the yeast replication factors Sld2/DRC1, is essential for DNA replication in egg extracts. xRTS can be replaced in extracts by its human homolog, while RECQL4 depletion from mammalian cells induces proliferation failure, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved function. xRTS accumulates on chromatin during replication initiation, after prereplication-complex (pre-RC) proteins, Cut5, Sld5, or Cdc45 but before replicative polymerases. xRTS depletion suppresses the loading of RPA, the ssDNA binding protein that marks unwound origins before polymerase recruitment. However, xRTS is unaffected by xRPA depletion. Thus, xRTS functions after pre-RC formation to promote loading of replication factors at origins, a previously unrecognized activity necessary for initiation. This role connects defective replication initiation to a chromosome-fragility disorder.