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1.  Genomic approaches to the initiation of DNA replication and chromatin structure reveal a complex relationship 
The mechanisms regulating the coordinate activation of tens of thousands of replication origins in multicellular organisms remain poorly explored. Recent advances in genomics have provided valuable information about the sites at which DNA replication is initiated and the selection mechanisms of specific sites in both yeast and vertebrates. Studies in yeast have advanced to the point that it is now possible to develop convincing models for origin selection. A general model has emerged, but yeast data have also revealed an unsuspected diversity of strategies for origin positioning. We focus here on the ways in which chromatin structure may affect the formation of pre-replication complexes, a prerequisite for origin activation. We also discuss the need to exercise caution when trying to extrapolate yeast models directly to more complex vertebrate genomes.
PMCID: PMC3080764  PMID: 21278082
DNA replication origin; nucleosome positioning; chromatin structure; transcription factors; genome-wide studies
2.  CpG Islands: Starting Blocks for Replication and Transcription 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(4):e1000454.
PMCID: PMC2661370  PMID: 19360095
3.  USF Binding Sequences from the HS4 Insulator Element Impose Early Replication Timing on a Vertebrate Replicator 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(3):e1001277.
A combination of cis-regulatory elements can impose the formation of an early replicating domain in a naturally late replicating region and might constitute the basic unit of early replicating domains.
The nuclear genomes of vertebrates show a highly organized program of DNA replication where GC-rich isochores are replicated early in S-phase, while AT-rich isochores are late replicating. GC-rich regions are gene dense and are enriched for active transcription, suggesting a connection between gene regulation and replication timing. Insulator elements can organize independent domains of gene transcription and are suitable candidates for being key regulators of replication timing. We have tested the impact of inserting a strong replication origin flanked by the β-globin HS4 insulator on the replication timing of naturally late replicating regions in two different avian cell types, DT40 (lymphoid) and 6C2 (erythroid). We find that the HS4 insulator has the capacity to impose a shift to earlier replication. This shift requires the presence of HS4 on both sides of the replication origin and results in an advance of replication timing of the target locus from the second half of S-phase to the first half when a transcribed gene is positioned nearby. Moreover, we find that the USF transcription factor binding site is the key cis-element inside the HS4 insulator that controls replication timing. Taken together, our data identify a combination of cis-elements that might constitute the basic unit of multi-replicon megabase-sized early domains of DNA replication.
Author Summary
All eukaryotic organisms must duplicate their genome precisely once before cell division. This occurs according to an established temporal program during S-phase (when DNA synthesis takes place) of the cell cycle. In vertebrates, this program is regulated at the level of large chromosomal domains ranging from 200 kb to 2 Mb, but the molecular mechanisms that control the temporal firing order of animal replication origins are not clearly understood. Using the genetically tractable chicken DT40 cell system, we identified a minimal combination of cis-regulatory DNA elements that is able to shift the timing of a naturally “mid-late” replicated region to “mid-early.” This critical group of elements is composed of one strong replication origin flanked by binding sequences for the upstream stimulatory factor (USF) protein. The additional presence of a strongly transcribed gene shifted the region towards an even earlier replication time, suggesting cooperation between cis-elements when establishing temporal programs of replication. We speculate that USF binding sequences cooperate with sites of replication initiation and transcribed genes to promote the establishment of early replicating domains along vertebrate genomes.
PMCID: PMC3295818  PMID: 22412349
4.  Replication of the Chicken β-Globin Locus: Early-Firing Origins at the 5′ HS4 Insulator and the ρ- and βA-Globin Genes Show Opposite Epigenetic Modifications 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(10):3536-3549.
Chromatin structure is believed to exert a strong effect on replication origin function. We have studied the replication of the chicken β-globin locus, whose chromatin structure has been extensively characterized. This locus is delimited by hypersensitive sites (HSs) that mark the position of insulator elements. A stretch of condensed chromatin and another HS separate the β-globin domain from an adjacent folate receptor (FR) gene. We demonstrate here that in erythroid cells that express the FR but not the globin genes, replication initiates at four sites within the β-globin domain, one at the 5′ HS4 insulator and the other three near the ρ- and βA-globin genes. Three origins consist of G+C-rich sequences enriched in CpG dinucleotides. The fourth origin is A+T rich. Together with previous work, these data reveal that the insulator origin has unmethylated CpGs, hyperacetylated histones H3 and H4, and lysine 4-methylated histone H3. In contrast, opposite modifications are observed at the other G+C-rich origins. We also show that the whole region, including the stretch of condensed chromatin, replicates early in S phase in these cells. Therefore, different early-firing origins within the same locus may have opposite patterns of epigenetic modifications. The role of insulator elements in DNA replication is discussed.
PMCID: PMC164771  PMID: 12724412
5.  Determinants of G quadruplex-induced epigenetic instability in REV1-deficient cells 
The EMBO Journal  2014;33(21):2507-2520.
REV1-deficient chicken DT40 cells are compromised in replicating G quadruplex (G4)-forming DNA. This results in localised, stochastic loss of parental chromatin marks and changes in gene expression. We previously proposed that this epigenetic instability arises from G4-induced replication fork stalls disrupting the accurate propagation of chromatin structure through replication. Here, we test this model by showing that a single G4 motif is responsible for the epigenetic instability of the BU-1 locus in REV1-deficient cells, despite its location 3.5 kb from the transcription start site (TSS). The effect of the G4 is dependent on it residing on the leading strand template, but is independent of its in vitro thermal stability. Moving the motif to more than 4 kb from the TSS stabilises expression of the gene. However, loss of histone modifications (H3K4me3 and H3K9/14ac) around the transcription start site correlates with the position of the G4 motif, expression being lost only when the promoter is affected. This supports the idea that processive replication is required to maintain the histone modification pattern and full transcription of this model locus.
PMCID: PMC4282387  PMID: 25190518
epigenetic memory; G quadruplex; histone modifications; replication; REV1

Results 1-5 (5)