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J Cell Sci. 2004 Oct 15;117(Pt 22):5353-65. Epub 2004 Oct 5.

Stable chromosomal units determine the spatial and temporal organization of DNA replication.

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University of Munich (LMU), Department Biology II, Grosshaderner Str. 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


DNA replication occurs in mammalian cells at so-called replication foci occupying defined nuclear sites at specific times during S phase. It is an unresolved problem how this specific spatiotemporal organization of replication foci is determined. Another unresolved question remains as to what extent DNA is redistributed during S phase. To investigate these problems, we visualized the replicating DNA and the replication machinery simultaneously in living HeLa cells. Time-lapse analyses revealed that DNA was not redistributed to other nuclear sites during S phase. Furthermore, the results showed that DNA is organized into stable aggregates equivalent to replication foci. These aggregates, which we call sub-chromosomal foci, stably maintained their replication timing from S phase to S phase. During S-phase progression, the replication machinery sequentially proceeded through spatially adjacent sets of sub-chromosomal foci. These findings imply that the specific nuclear substructure of chromosomes and the order of their stable subunits determine the spatiotemporal organization of DNA replication.

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