Background: DNA replication in mammalian cells occurs in a defined temporal order during S phase, known as the replication timing (RT) programme. Replication timing is developmentally regulated and correlated with chromatin conformation and local transcriptional potential. Here, we present RT profiles of unprecedented temporal resolution in two human embryonic stem cell lines, human colon carcinoma line HCT116, and mouse embryonic stem cells and their neural progenitor derivatives.
Results: Fine temporal windows revealed a remarkable degree of cell-to-cell conservation in RT, particularly at the very beginning and ends of S phase, and identified 5 temporal patterns of replication in all cell types, consistent with varying degrees of initiation efficiency. Zones of replication initiation (IZs) were detected throughout S phase and interacted in 3D space preferentially with other IZs of similar firing time. Temporal transition regions were resolved into segments of uni-directional replication punctuated at specific sites by small, inefficient IZs. Sites of convergent replication were divided into sites of termination or large constant timing regions consisting of many synchronous IZs in tandem. Developmental transitions in RT occured mainly by activating or inactivating individual IZs or occasionally by altering IZ firing time, demonstrating that IZs, rather than individual origins, are the units of developmental regulation. Finally, haplotype phasing revealed numerous regions of allele-specific and allele-independent asynchronous replication. Allele-independent asynchronous replication was correlated with the presence of previously mapped common fragile sites.
Conclusions: Altogether, these data provide a detailed temporal choreography of DNA replication in mammalian cells.