Protection of telomeres 1 proteins POT1a and POT1b can repress ATR signaling by RPA exclusion, but binding to CST limits ATR repression by POT1b

J Biol Chem. 2018 Sep 14;293(37):14384-14392. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004598. Epub 2018 Aug 6.


Comprised of telomeric TTAGGG repeats and shelterin, telomeres ensure that the natural ends of chromosomes remain impervious to the DNA damage response. Telomeres carry a long constitutive 3' overhang that can bind replication protein A (RPA) and activate the ATR Ser/Thr kinase (ATR), which induces cell cycle arrest. A single-stranded (ss) TTAGGG repeat-binding protein in mouse shelterin, POT1a, has been proposed to repress ATR signaling by preventing RPA binding. Repression of ATR at telomeres requires tethering of POT1a to the other shelterin subunits situated on the double-stranded (ds) telomeric DNA. The simplest model of ATR repression, the "tethered exclusion model," suggests that the only critical features of POT1a are its connection to shelterin and its binding to ss telomeric DNA. In agreement with the model, we show here that a shelterin-tethered variant of RPA70 (lacking the ATR recruitment domain) can repress ATR signaling at telomeres that lack POT1a. However, arguing against the tethered exclusion model, the nearly identical POT1b subunit of shelterin has been shown to be much less proficient than POT1a in repression of ATR. We now show that POT1b has the intrinsic ability to fully repress ATR but is prevented from doing so when bound to Ctc1, Stn1, Ten1 (CST), the complex needed for telomere end processing. These results establish that shelterin represses ATR with a tethered ssDNA-binding domain that excludes RPA from the 3' overhang and also reveal an unexpected effect of CST on the ability of POT1b to repress ATR.

Keywords: 3′ overhang; ATR signaling; CST (Ctc1, Stn1, Ten1); DNA binding protein; DNA damage response; POT1; POT1a; POT1b; RPA; checkpoint control; shelterin; single-stranded DNA; telomere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Protein Binding
  • Replication Protein A / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Telomere*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RPA1 protein, human
  • Replication Protein A
  • DNA
  • ATR protein, human
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins