Background: In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the cyclin-dependent kinases of the Clb/Cdc28 family restrict the initiation of DNA replication to once per cell cycle by preventing the re-assembly of pre-replicative complexes (pre-RCs) at replication origins that have already initiated replication. This assembly involves the Cdc6-dependent loading of six minichromosome maintenance (Mcm) proteins, Mcm2-7, onto origins. How Clb/Cdc28 kinases prevent pre-RC assembly is not understood.
Results: In living cells, the Mcm proteins were found to colocalize in a cell-cycle-regulated manner. Mcm2-4, 6 and 7 were concentrated in the nucleus in G1 phase, gradually exported to the cytoplasm during S phase, and excluded from the nucleus by G2 and M phase. Tagging any single Mcm protein with the SV40 nuclear localization signal made all Mcm proteins constitutively nuclear. In the absence of functional Cdc6, Clb/Cdc28 kinases were necessary and sufficient for efficient net nuclear export of a fusion protein between Mcm7 and the green fluorescent protein (Mcm7-GFP), whereas inactivation of these kinases at the end of mitosis coincided with the net nuclear import of Mcm7-GFP. In contrast, in the presence of functional Cdc6, which loads Mcm proteins onto chromatin, S-phase progression as well as Clb/Cdc28 kinases was required for Mcm-GFP export.
Conclusions: We propose that Clb/Cdc28 kinases prevent pre-RC reassembly in part by promoting the net nuclear export of Mcm proteins. We further propose that Mcm proteins become refractory to this regulation when they load onto chromatin and must be dislodged by DNA replication before they can be exported. Such an arrangement could ensure that Mcm proteins complete their replication function before they are removed from the nucleus.