, Volume 108, Issue 8, pp 471-484

Heterogeneity of eukaryotic replicons, replicon clusters, and replication foci

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According to the current paradigm, replication foci are discrete sites in the interphase nucleus where assemblies of DNA replication enzymes simultaneously elongate the replication forks of 10–100 adjacent replicons (each ∼100 kbp). Here we review new results and provide alternative interpretations for old results to show that the current paradigm is in need of further development. In particular, many replicons are larger than previously thought – so large that their complete replication takes much longer (several hours) than the measured average time to complete replication at individual foci (45–60 min). In addition to this large heterogeneity in replicon size, it is now apparent that there is also a corresponding heterogeneity in the size and intensity of individual replication foci. An important property of all replication foci is that they are stable structures that persist, with constant dimensions, during all cell cycle stages including mitosis, and therefore likely represent a fundamental unit of chromatin organization. With this in mind, we present a modified model of replication foci in which many of the foci are composed of clusters of small replicons as previously proposed, but the size and number of replicons per focus is extremely heterogeneous, and a significant proportion of foci are composed of single large replicons. We further speculate that very large replicons may extend over two or more individual foci and that this organization may be important in regulating the replication of such large replicons as the cell proceeds through S-phase.

Received: 16 August 1999 / Accepted: 17 August 1999