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Mol Cell Biol. 1998 Jun;18(6):3475-82.

Concurrent replication and methylation at mammalian origins of replication.

Author information

  • 1McGill Cancer Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1Y6.

Erratum in

  • Mol Cell Biol 1999 Jun;19(6):4546.


Observations made with Escherichia coli have suggested that a lag between replication and methylation regulates initiation of replication. To address the question of whether a similar mechanism operates in mammalian cells, we have determined the temporal relationship between initiation of replication and methylation in mammalian cells both at a comprehensive level and at specific sites. First, newly synthesized DNA containing origins of replication was isolated from primate-transformed and primary cell lines (HeLa cells, primary human fibroblasts, African green monkey kidney fibroblasts [CV-1], and primary African green monkey kidney cells) by the nascent-strand extrusion method followed by sucrose gradient sedimentation. By a modified nearest-neighbor analysis, the levels of cytosine methylation residing in all four possible dinucleotide sequences of both nascent and genomic DNAs were determined. The levels of cytosine methylation observed in the nascent and genomic DNAs were equivalent, suggesting that DNA replication and methylation are concomitant events. Okazaki fragments were also demonstrated to be methylated, suggesting that the rapid kinetics of methylation is a feature of both the leading and the lagging strands of nascent DNA. However, in contrast to previous observations, neither nascent nor genomic DNA contained detectable levels of methylated cytosines at dinucleotide contexts other than CpG (i.e., CpA, CpC, and CpT are not methylated). The nearest-neighbor analysis also shows that cancer cell lines are hypermethylated in both nascent and genomic DNAs relative to the primary cell lines. The extent of methylation in nascent and genomic DNAs at specific sites was determined as well by bisulfite mapping of CpG sites at the lamin B2, c-myc, and beta-globin origins of replication. The methylation patterns of genomic and nascent clones are the same, confirming the hypothesis that methylation occurs concurrently with replication. Interestingly, the c-myc origin was found to be unmethylated in all clones tested. These results show that, like genes, different origins of replication exhibit different patterns of methylation. In summary, our results demonstrate tight coordination of DNA methylation and replication, which is consistent with recent observations showing that DNA methyltransferase is associated with proliferating cell nuclear antigen in the replication fork.

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