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J Biol Chem July 2, 2004; 279 (27): 28071-81.

Control of replication origin density and firing time in Xenopus egg extracts: role of a caffeine-sensitive, ATR-dependent checkpoint.

A strict control of replication origin density and firing time is essential to chromosomal stability. Replication origins in early frog embryos are located at apparently random sequences, are spaced at close ( approximately 10-kb) intervals, and are activated in clusters that fire at different times throughout a very brief S phase. Using molecular combing of DNA from sperm nuclei replicating in Xenopus egg extracts, we show that the temporal order of origin firing can be modulated by the nucleocytoplasmic ratio and the checkpoint-abrogating agent caffeine in the absence of external challenge. Increasing the concentration of nuclei in the extract increases S phase length. Contrary to a previous interpretation, this does not result from a change in local origin spacing but from a spreading of the time over which distinct origin clusters fire and from a decrease in replication fork velocity. Caffeine addition or ATR inhibition with a specific neutralizing antibody increases origin firing early in S phase, suggesting that a checkpoint controls the time of origin firing during unperturbed S phase. Furthermore, fork progression is impaired when excess forks are assembled after caffeine treatment. We also show that caffeine allows more early origin firing with low levels of aphidicolin treatment but not higher levels. We propose that a caffeine-sensitive, ATR-dependent checkpoint adjusts the frequency of initiation to the supply of replication factors and optimizes fork density for safe and efficient chromosomal replication during normal S phase.

PubMed ID: 15123715
Article link: J Biol Chem

Species referenced: Xenopus
Genes referenced: antxr1 atr