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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2006;76:129-84.

Eukaryotic DNA replication in a chromatin context.

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  • 1Molecular and Computational Biology Section University of Southern California Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


There has been remarkable progress in the last 20 years in defining the molecular mechanisms that regulate initiation of DNA synthesis in eukaryotic cells. Replication origins in the DNA nucleate the ordered assembly of protein factors to form a prereplication complex (preRC) that is poised for DNA synthesis. Transition of the preRC to an active initiation complex is regulated by cyclin-dependent kinases and other signaling molecules, which promote further protein assembly and activate the mini chromosome maintenance helicase. We will review these mechanisms and describe the state of knowledge about the proteins involved. However, we will also consider an additional layer of complexity. The DNA in the cell is packaged with histone proteins into chromatin. Chromatin structure provides an additional layer of heritable information with associated epigenetic modifications. Thus, we will begin by describing chromatin structure, and how the cell generally controls access to the DNA. Access to the DNA requires active chromatin remodeling, specific histone modifications, and regulated histone deposition. Studies in transcription have revealed a variety of mechanisms that regulate DNA access, and some of these are likely to be shared with DNA replication. We will briefly describe heterochromatin as a model for an epigenetically inherited chromatin state. Next, we will describe the mechanisms of replication initiation and how these are affected by constraints of chromatin. Finally, chromatin must be reassembled with appropriate modifications following passage of the replication fork, and our third major topic will be the reassembly of chromatin and its associated epigenetic marks. Thus, in this chapter, we seek to bring together the studies of replication initiation and the studies of chromatin into a single holistic narrative.

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