Within eukaryotic cells, genome duplication initiates at multiple sites on each chromosome. Replication initiation events in diploid mitotic cells proceed in a precise order and are strictly regulated by a series of cell cycle checkpoint signaling pathways. These regulatory constraints, however, are often relaxed in cancer cells. Because the processes that coordinate replication ultimately converge on chromatin, understanding the molecular events that precede DNA replication at the chromatin level is crucial if we are to fully understand cell growth. Critical information about this process is missing because protein complexes that initiate chromosomal replication seem to bind DNA indiscriminately. To gain a complete understanding of the DNA replication process we must resolve how this non-specific DNA binding translates into highly coordinated replication. Our studies are based on the hypothesis that sequence-specific signaling molecules associate with replication initiation sites on chromatin where they modulate the local activity of the ubiquitous replication machinery and dictate both the location and timing of replication initiation events. To test this hypothesis, we characterize protein-DNA interactions at replication initiation sites and identify interactions that play regulatory roles in the DNA replication process. We use two approaches to characterize DNA-protein interactions at replication initiation sites. The first approach utilizes distinct DNA sequences, termed replicators, which facilitate the initiation of DNA replication. We have initially identified these replicator sequences and we now use them as bait to isolate protein complexes that potentially regulate replication. In recent studies we have identified two discrete DNA-protein complexes within one replicator element. One of these complexes includes chromatin remodeling proteins that determine both replication timing and transcriptional activity (Mol Cell Biol. 31:3472-84; 2011). Another complex includes RepID, a member of the DDB1-Cul4-associated-factor (DCAF) family, which binds a subset of replication initiation sites and is required for replication at those sites (Nat Commun. 8;7:11748; 2016). Our studies have demonstrated that RepID associates with chromatin-loop interactions between a replicator element and a distal regulatory sequence within the human beta globin (HBB) locus. We have characterized RepID interactions with other proteins, identified RepID protein partners using a non-biased approach and pinpointed protein domains within RepID that facilitate DNA-protein and protein-protein interactions. Our analyses demonstrate that RepID binding origins require RepID for initiation of DNA replication, providing the first example of a site-specific interaction that determines the initiation of DNA replication on a group of metazoan replication origins. The second approach involves developing tools to map replication initiation sites throughout the genome, and using these tools to analyze DNA replication in the context of chromatin modifications and transcriptional activity. The developed methods involve massively parallel sequencing and single-fiber imaging of replication fork progression. These procedures allow us to study the dynamics of DNA replication at the whole-genome level. Using this methodology we can test whether groups of replication initiation sites share specific properties - for example, if they associate with a particular chromatin feature. We can also identify groups of initiation sites that respond in a similar fashion to a cellular challenge, and test whether distinct groups of replication initiation sites are regulated through association with particular proteins (such as RepID). We have generated a comprehensive dataset of replication initiation sites for several human cancer cell lines (Genome Res. 21:1822-32, 2010; Epigenetics and Chromatin 9:18, 2016). To facilitate these studies, we have developed a web-based tool (Coloweb; BMC Genomics 16:142. 2015) to help decipher the relationships among RepID binding sites and epigenetic features. This tool is available to the community to support bioinformatics characterization of DNA-protein interaction loci. We use genome-wide data to identify DNA and histone modifications that associate with replication initiation events. For example, we observed strong associations between replication initiation and both DNAse hypersensitive sites and dimethylated histone H3 lysine 79, which exhibits a dynamic cell cycle distribution (PLoS Genet. 9:e1003542, 2013). Our recent comprehensive analysis of chromatin modifications associated with DNA replication origins (Epigenetics and Chromatin 9:18, 2016) demonstrated that replication origin usage varies with tissue type, with distinct modifications associated with cell-type specific replication origins. In a collaborative study, we have used phased allele-specific analyses of replication origins to decipher the sequence requirements for replication initiation (Nature Communications 6:7051. 2015). Anti-cancer drugs often target DNA replication and/or interfere with cell cycle signaling, and the precise nature of the cell cycle defect in a particular cancer often influences the cancer cell's susceptibility to specific anti-cancer therapy. Combining nascent strand abundance sequencing and single fiber analyses, we asked how particular replication and repair pathways affect the pace and frequency of DNA replication. We observed that a DNA repair endonuclease, Mus81, modulates the pace of DNA replication in the absence of exogenous stress and that its presence is essential to help cells restore DNA synthesis in the presence of drugs that slow replication (Nature Communications 6:6746. 2015). In the future we will investigate how protein-DNA interactions that are required for DNA replication are modulated in response to environmental challenges and anti-cancer drugs.

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National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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Fu, Haiqing; Baris, Adrian; Aladjem, Mirit I (2018) Replication timing and nuclear structure. Curr Opin Cell Biol 52:43-50
Utani, Koichi; Aladjem, Mirit I (2018) Extra View: Sirt1 Acts As A Gatekeeper Of Replication Initiation To Preserve Genomic Stability. Nucleus 9:261-267
Warburton, Alix; Redmond, Catherine J; Dooley, Katharine E et al. (2018) HPV integration hijacks and multimerizes a cellular enhancer to generate a viral-cellular super-enhancer that drives high viral oncogene expression. PLoS Genet 14:e1007179
Jang, Sang-Min; Redon, Christophe E; Aladjem, Mirit I (2018) Chromatin-Bound Cullin-Ring Ligases: Regulatory Roles in DNA Replication and Potential Targeting for Cancer Therapy. Front Mol Biosci 5:19
Aladjem, Mirit I; Redon, Christophe E (2017) Order from clutter: selective interactions at mammalian replication origins. Nat Rev Genet 18:101-116
Wang, Yating; Khan, Abid; Marks, Anna B et al. (2017) Temporal association of ORCA/LRWD1 to late-firing origins during G1 dictates heterochromatin replication and organization. Nucleic Acids Res 45:2490-2502
Marks, Anna B; Fu, Haiqing; Aladjem, Mirit I (2017) Regulation of Replication Origins. Adv Exp Med Biol 1042:43-59
Utani, Koichi; Fu, Haiqing; Jang, Sang-Min et al. (2017) Phosphorylated SIRT1 associates with replication origins to prevent excess replication initiation and preserve genomic stability. Nucleic Acids Res 45:7807-7824
Marks, Anna B; Smith, Owen K; Aladjem, Mirit I (2016) Replication origins: determinants or consequences of nuclear organization? Curr Opin Genet Dev 37:67-75
Smith, Owen K; Kim, RyanGuk; Fu, Haiqing et al. (2016) Distinct epigenetic features of differentiation-regulated replication origins. Epigenetics Chromatin 9:18

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