Accelerated Growth in the Absence of DNA Replication Origins

Nature. 2013 Nov 28;503(7477):544-547. doi: 10.1038/nature12650. Epub 2013 Nov 3.


DNA replication initiates at defined sites called origins, which serve as binding sites for initiator proteins that recruit the replicative machinery. Origins differ in number and structure across the three domains of life and their properties determine the dynamics of chromosome replication. Bacteria and some archaea replicate from single origins, whereas most archaea and all eukaryotes replicate using multiple origins. Initiation mechanisms that rely on homologous recombination operate in some viruses. Here we show that such mechanisms also operate in archaea. We use deep sequencing to study replication in Haloferax volcanii and identify four chromosomal origins of differing activity. Deletion of individual origins results in perturbed replication dynamics and reduced growth. However, a strain lacking all origins has no apparent defects and grows significantly faster than wild type. Origin-less cells initiate replication at dispersed sites rather than at discrete origins and have an absolute requirement for the recombinase RadA, unlike strains lacking individual origins. Our results demonstrate that homologous recombination alone can efficiently initiate the replication of an entire cellular genome. This raises the question of what purpose replication origins serve and why they have evolved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA, Archaeal / analysis
  • DNA, Archaeal / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Haloferax volcanii / genetics*
  • Haloferax volcanii / growth & development*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Homologous Recombination / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Replication Origin* / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • DNA, Archaeal
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RadA protein, archaeal

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE41961