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Mol Cell Biol. 2003 May;23(10):3536-49.

Replication of the chicken beta-globin locus: early-firing origins at the 5' HS4 insulator and the rho- and betaA-globin genes show opposite epigenetic modifications.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75230 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Chromatin structure is believed to exert a strong effect on replication origin function. We have studied the replication of the chicken beta-globin locus, whose chromatin structure has been extensively characterized. This locus is delimited by hypersensitive sites (HSs) that mark the position of insulator elements. A stretch of condensed chromatin and another HS separate the beta-globin domain from an adjacent folate receptor (FR) gene. We demonstrate here that in erythroid cells that express the FR but not the globin genes, replication initiates at four sites within the beta-globin domain, one at the 5' HS4 insulator and the other three near the rho- and beta(A)-globin genes. Three origins consist of G+C-rich sequences enriched in CpG dinucleotides. The fourth origin is A+T rich. Together with previous work, these data reveal that the insulator origin has unmethylated CpGs, hyperacetylated histones H3 and H4, and lysine 4-methylated histone H3. In contrast, opposite modifications are observed at the other G+C-rich origins. We also show that the whole region, including the stretch of condensed chromatin, replicates early in S phase in these cells. Therefore, different early-firing origins within the same locus may have opposite patterns of epigenetic modifications. The role of insulator elements in DNA replication is discussed.

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