In eukaryotes, the initiation of DNA synthesis requires the assembly of a pre-replicative complex (pre-RC) at origins of replication. This involves the sequential binding of ORC (origin-recognition-complex), Cdc6 and MCM proteins, a process referred to as licensing. After origin firing, the Cdc6 and MCM proteins dissociate from the chromatin, and do not rebind until after the completion of mitosis, thereby restricting replication to a single round in each cell cycle. Although nuclei normally become licensed for replication as they enter G(1), the extent to which the license is retained when cells enter the quiescent state (G(0)) is controversial. Here we show that the replication capacity of nuclei from Swiss 3T3 cells, in Xenopus egg extracts, is not lost abruptly with the onset of quiescence, but instead declines gradually. The decline in replication capacity, which affects both the number of nuclei induced to replicate and their subsequent rate of DNA synthesis, is accompanied by a fall in the level of chromatin-bound MCM2. When quiescent nuclei are incubated in egg extracts, they do not bind further MCMs unless the nuclei are first permeabilized. The residual replication capacity of intact nuclei must therefore be dependent on the remaining endogenous MCMs. Although high levels of Cdk activity are known to block MCM binding, we show that the failure of intact nuclei in egg extracts to increase their bound MCMs is not due to their uptake and accumulation of Cdk complexes. Instead, the failure of binding must be due to exclusion of some other binding factor from the nucleus, or to the presence within nuclei of an inhibitor of binding other than Cdk activity. In contrast to the situation in Xenopus egg extracts, following serum stimulation of intact quiescent cells, the level of bound MCMs does increase before the cells reach S phase, without any disruption of the nuclear envelope.
- © 2000 by Company of Biologists