The location and development of Replicon Cluster Domains in early replicating DNA

Jose Melo da Costa Nunes, Marek Gierlinski, Takayo Sasaki, Emma J. Haagensen, David M. Gilbert, J. Julian Blow (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Background: It has been known for many years that in metazoan cells, replication origins are organised into clusters where origins within each cluster fire near-synchronously. Despite clusters being a fundamental organising principle of metazoan DNA replication, the genomic location of origin clusters has not been documented.

Methods: We synchronised human U2OS by thymidine block and release followed by L-mimosine block and release to create a population of cells progressing into S phase with a high degree of synchrony. At different times after release into S phase, cells were pulsed with EdU; the EdU-labelled DNA was then pulled down, sequenced and mapped onto the human genome.

Results: The early replicating DNA showed features at a range of scales. Wavelet analysis showed that the major feature of the early replicating DNA was at a size of 500 kb, consistent with clusters of replication origins. Over the first two hours of S phase, these Replicon Cluster Domains broadened in width, consistent with their being enlarged by the progression of replication forks at their outer boundaries. The total replication signal associated with each Replicon Cluster Domain varied considerably, and this variation was reproducible and conserved over time. We provide evidence that this variability in replication signal was at least in part caused by Replicon Cluster Domains being activated at different times in different cells in the population. We also provide evidence that adjacent clusters had a statistical preference for being activated in sequence across a group, consistent with the ‘domino’ model of replication focus activation order observed by microscopy.

Conclusions: We show that early replicating DNA is organised into Replicon Cluster Domains that behave as expected of replicon clusters observed by DNA fibre analysis. The coordinated activation of different Replicon Cluster Domains can generate the replication timing programme by which the genome is duplicated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number158
Number of pages42
JournalWellcome Open Research
Early online date11 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2023


  • cell cycle
  • DNA replication
  • replication timing
  • replicon clusters
  • S phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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