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EMBO J. 1996 Mar 1;15(5):1085-97.

Chromatin binding, nuclear localization and phosphorylation of Xenopus cdc21 are cell-cycle dependent and associated with the control of initiation of DNA replication.

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Institute Jacques Monod, Laboratoire d'Embryologie Moleculaire, Paris, France.


A Xenopus homologue of Schizosaccharomyces pombe cdc21 has been characterized as a new member of the MCM family of proteins. The cdc21 protein exhibits cell-cycle dependent chromatin binding and phosphorylation in association with S-phase control. Cdc21 binds to decondensing chromatin at the end of mitosis, localizing to numerous foci which form prior to reconstitution of the nuclear membrane. The association of cdc21 with chromatin occurs in membrane-free high speed extracts and is resistant to detergent extraction. The spatial organization of the cdc21 foci resembles that of pre-replication centres though no co-localization with RP-A was observed. Cdc21 remains bound to chromatin during the initiation of DNA replication and is displaced as the DNA replication forks progress. These subnuclear changes in localization correlate with cell-cycle-regulated changes in phosphorylation. Cdc21 binds to chromatin in an underphosphorylated state, but in early S phase the nuclear localized cdc21 is partially phosphorylated before it is displaced from the chromatin. Cytoplasmic cdc21 remains underphosphorylated but at the beginning of mitosis the entire pool of cdc21 is hyperphosphorylated, possibly by the cdc2/cyclin B kinase. These properties identify Xenopus cdc21 as a possible component of the DNA licensing factor.

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