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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jul 6;287(28):23958-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.359687. Epub 2012 May 22.

Disintegration of nascent replication bubbles during thymine starvation triggers RecA- and RecBCD-dependent replication origin destruction.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801-3709, USA.


Thymineless death strikes cells unable to synthesize DNA precursor dTTP, with the nature of chromosomal damage still unclear. Thymine starvation stalls replication forks, whereas accumulating evidence indicates the replication origin is also affected. Using a novel DNA labeling technique, here we show that replication slowly continues in thymine-starved cells, but the newly synthesized DNA becomes fragmented and degraded. This degradation apparently releases enough thymine to sustain initiation of new replication bubbles from the chromosomal origin, which destabilizes the origin in a RecA-dependent manner. Marker frequency analysis with gene arrays 1) reveals destruction of the origin-centered chromosomal segment in RecA(+) cells; 2) confirms origin accumulation in the recA mutants; and 3) identifies the sites around the origin where destruction initiates in the recBCD mutants. We propose that thymineless cells convert persistent single-strand gaps behind replication forks into double-strand breaks, using the released thymine for new initiations, whereas subsequent disintegration of small replication bubbles causes replication origin destruction.

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