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Mol Cell Biol. Jun 1995; 15(6): 2942–2954.
PMCID: PMC230525

Site-specific initiation of DNA replication in Xenopus egg extract requires nuclear structure.


Previous studies have shown that Xenopus egg extract can initiate DNA replication in purified DNA molecules once the DNA is organized into a pseudonucleus. DNA replication under these conditions is independent of DNA sequence and begins at many sites distributed randomly throughout the molecules. In contrast, DNA replication in the chromosomes of cultured animal cells initiates at specific, heritable sites. Here we show that Xenopus egg extract can initiate DNA replication at specific sites in mammalian chromosomes, but only when the DNA is presented in the form of an intact nucleus. Initiation of DNA synthesis in nuclei isolated from G1-phase Chinese hamster ovary cells was distinguished from continuation of DNA synthesis at preformed replication forks in S-phase nuclei by a delay that preceded DNA synthesis, a dependence on soluble Xenopus egg factors, sensitivity to a protein kinase inhibitor, and complete labeling of nascent DNA chains. Initiation sites for DNA replication were mapped downstream of the amplified dihydrofolate reductase gene region by hybridizing newly replicated DNA to unique probes and by hybridizing Okazaki fragments to the two individual strands of unique probes. When G1-phase nuclei were prepared by methods that preserved the integrity of the nuclear membrane, Xenopus egg extract initiated replication specifically at or near the origin of bidirectional replication utilized by hamster cells (dihydrofolate reductase ori-beta). However, when nuclei were prepared by methods that altered nuclear morphology and damaged the nuclear membrane, preference for initiation at ori-beta was significantly reduced or eliminated. Furthermore, site-specific initiation was not observed with bare DNA substrates, and Xenopus eggs or egg extracts replicated prokaryotic DNA or hamster DNA that did not contain a replication origin as efficiently as hamster DNA containing ori-beta. We conclude that initiation sites for DNA replication in mammalian cells are established prior to S phase by some component of nuclear structure and that these sites can be activated by soluble factors in Xenopus eggs.

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Selected References

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