Duplication of the eukaryotic genome depends on the temporal and spatial organization of DNA replication during the cell cycle. To investigate the genomic organization of DNA replication in a higher eukaryote, multiple origins of replication must be simultaneously analyzed over large regions of the genome as DNA synthesis progresses through S phase of the cell cycle. We have employed a novel technique that allows for the quantitative analysis of DNA replication on a genome wide basis. The technique involves stretching and aligning individual DNA molecules on a glass surface. As a model system, Xenopus laevis egg extract was used to differentially label sperm chromatin at successive time points after the start of DNA synthesis. The differentially labeled DNA allows earlier and later replicating sequences to be distinguished, and hence the sites of DNA synthesis at any given time can be directly visualized. Genomic DNA was extracted, and measurements made on the linearized molecules provided a comprehensive analysis of the spatial and temporal organization of DNA replication in the X. laevis in vitro replication system. It was found that: (i) DNA synthesis initiates asynchronously at irregular intervals but continuously as DNA replication advances; and (ii) that the frequency of initiation (the number of activated origins per kilobase) increases as DNA synthesis nears completion. The implications of these findings for the regulation of DNA replication in early embryos is discussed.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.