DNA replication is essential to maintain the genome of all organisms. During each round of cell division, eukaryotic cells must establish hundreds to thousands of replication forks that coordinately replicate each chromosome. The events that assemble the multi-enzyme replisomes that act at each replication fork are tightly regulated to ensure that each chromosome is replicated exactly once. Consistent with their importance, defects in or misregulation of replication initiation proteins are known to lead to cancer and developmental abnormalities. It is critical to understand how the essential event of replication initiation occurs and how this event leads to the appropriate assembly of the replication machinery. In recent years, significant advances have been made in our understanding of the initial event of this process, the selection of the sites of replication initiation (origins of replication) through the loading of the replicative DNA helicase. In contrast, we know significantly less about the events that activate these loaded helicases and the subsequent assembly of the DNA replication machinery. The proposed research will exploit a novel in vitro assay that recapitulates the events of DNA replication initiation from a defined origin of replication. We will use this assay and new assays derived from it to address fundamental questions concerning the initiation of replication. We will primarily focus on the committed step of replication initiation, DNA helicase activation.
In specific aim one, we will develop assays to address how the loaded helicase is primed for helicase activation but maintained in an inactive state. In the second aim, we will use novel DNA substrates and assays to determine how the numerous proteins required for helicase activation contribute to this event, with a focus on the known helicase-activating protein, Cdc45. In the last aim, we will address how helicase activation and DNA unwinding are coordinated with the initiation of DNA synthesis to prevent the generation of excess single-stranded DNA and activation of DNA-damage checkpoint.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Molecular Genetics A Study Section (MGA)
Program Officer
Janes, Daniel E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Bell, Stephen P (2017) Rethinking origin licensing. Elife 6:
Ticau, Simina; Friedman, Larry J; Champasa, Kanokwan et al. (2017) Mechanism and timing of Mcm2-7 ring closure during DNA replication origin licensing. Nat Struct Mol Biol 24:309-315
Bell, Stephen P; Labib, Karim (2016) Chromosome Duplication in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 203:1027-67
Duzdevich, Daniel; Warner, Megan D; Ticau, Simina et al. (2015) The dynamics of eukaryotic replication initiation: origin specificity, licensing, and firing at the single-molecule level. Mol Cell 58:483-94
Ticau, Simina; Friedman, Larry J; Ivica, Nikola A et al. (2015) Single-molecule studies of origin licensing reveal mechanisms ensuring bidirectional helicase loading. Cell 161:513-525
Kang, Sukhyun; Warner, Megan D; Bell, Stephen P (2014) Multiple functions for Mcm2-7 ATPase motifs during replication initiation. Mol Cell 55:655-65
Froelich, Clifford A; Kang, Sukhyun; Epling, Leslie B et al. (2014) A conserved MCM single-stranded DNA binding element is essential for replication initiation. Elife 3:e01993
Bell, Stephen P; Kaguni, Jon M (2013) Helicase loading at chromosomal origins of replication. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 5:
Heller, Ryan C; Kang, Sukhyun; Lam, Wendy M et al. (2011) Eukaryotic origin-dependent DNA replication in vitro reveals sequential action of DDK and S-CDK kinases. Cell 146:80-91
Chen, Shuyan; Bell, Stephen P (2011) CDK prevents Mcm2-7 helicase loading by inhibiting Cdt1 interaction with Orc6. Genes Dev 25:363-72

Showing the most recent 10 out of 23 publications