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The simian virus 40 core origin of replication consists of nucleotides 5211 through 31. These 64 base pairs contain three functional domains with strict sequence requirements and two spacer regions with relaxed sequence specificity but precise positional constraints. The early domain extends for 10 contiguous base pairs between nucleotides 5211 and 5220. A 9-base pair spacer from sequences 5221 through 5229 separates the early domain from the 23-base pair central palindrome that directs the binding of T antigen. The late end of the core between nucleotides 12 and 31 also contains spacer and sequence-specific functions that are not yet completely mapped. We propose that the sequence-specific domains are interaction sites for viral and cellular proteins, determinants of DNA conformation, or both. The spacers would position these signals at required distances and rotations relative to one another.