In mammalian cells, the Ku autoantigen is an end- binding DNA protein required for the repair of DNA breaks [Troelstra, C. and Jaspers, N.G.J. (1994) Curr. Biol., 4, 1149- 1151]. A yeast gene (HDF1) encoding a putative homologue of the 70 kDa subunit of Ku has recently been identified [Feldmann, H. and Winnacker, E. L. (1993) J. Biol. Chem., 268, 12895- 12900]. We find that hdf1 mutant strains have substantially shorter telomeres than wild-type strains. We speculate that Hdf1p may bind the natural ends of the chromosome, in addition to binding to the ends of broken DNA molecules. Strains with both an hdf1 mutation and a mutation in TEL 1 (a gene related to the human ataxia telangiectasia gene) have extremely short telomeres and grow slowly.