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EMBO J. 1986 Jul;5(7):1711-7.

Timing of initiation of chromosome replication in individual Escherichia coli cells.

Erratum in

  • EMBO J 1986 Nov;5(11):3074.


The synchrony of initiation of chromosome replication at multiple origins within individual Escherichia coli cells was studied by a novel method. Initiation of replication was inhibited with rifampicin or chloramphenicol and after completion of ongoing rounds of replication the numbers of fully replicated chromosomes in individual cells were measured by flow cytometry. In rapidly growing cultures, with parallel replication of several chromosomes, cells will end up with 2n (n = 1, 2, 3) chromosomes if initiation occurs simultaneously at all origins. A culture with asynchronous initiation may in addition contain cells with irregular numbers (not equal to 2n) of chromosomes. The frequency of cells with irregular numbers of chromosomes is a measure of the degree of asynchrony of initiation. After inhibition of initiation and run-out of replication in rapidly growing B/r A and K-12 cultures, a small fraction of the cells (2-7%) contained 3, 5, 6 or 7 chromosomes. From these measurements it was calculated that initiation at four origins in a single cell occurred within a small fraction, 0.1, of the doubling time (tau). A dnaA(Ts) mutant strain grown at permissive temperature exhibited a very large fraction of cells with irregular numbers of chromosomes after drug treatment demonstrating virtually random timing of initiation. A similar pattern of chromosome number per cell was found after treatment of a recA strain.

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