Shelterin/telosome is a multi-protein complex at mammalian telomeres, anchored to the double-stranded region by the telomeric-repeat binding factors-1 and -2. In vitro modification of these proteins by poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation through poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases-5 (tankyrases) and -1/-2, respectively, impairs binding. Thereafter, at least telomeric-repeat binding factor-1 is degraded by the proteasome. We show that pharmacological inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activity in cells from two different species leads to rapid decrease in median telomere length and stabilization at a lower setting. Specific knockdown of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 by RNA interference had the same effect. The length of the single-stranded telomeric overhang as well as telomerase activity were not affected. Release of inhibition led to a fast re-gain in telomere length to control levels in cells expressing active telomerase. We conclude that poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 activity and probably its interplay with telomeric-repeat binding factor-2 is an important determinant in telomere regulation. Our findings reinforce the link between poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation and aging/longevity and also impact on the use of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors in tumor therapy.