Reduced initiation frequency from oriC restores viability of a temperature-sensitive Escherichia coli replisome mutant.
Initiation of replication from oriC on the Escherichia coli chromosomes occurs once and only once per generation at the same cell mass per origin. During rapid growth there are overlapping replication cycles, and initiation occurs synchronously at two or more copies of oriC. Since the bacterial growth can vary over a wide range (from three divisions per hour to 2.5 hours or more per division) the frequency of initiation should change in coordination with bacterial growth. Prevention of reinitiation from a newly replicated origin by temporary sequestration of the hemi-methylated GATC-sites in the origin region provides the molecular/genetic basis for the maintenance of the eclipse period between two successive rounds of replication. Sequestration is also believed to be responsible for initiation synchrony, since inactivation of either the seqA or the dam gene abolishes synchrony while drastically reducing the eclipse. In this work, we attempted to examine the functional relationship(s) between the eclipse period and the synchrony of initiation in E.coli strains by direct measurements of these parameters by density-shift centrifugation and flow-cytometric analyses, respectively. The eclipse period, measured as a fraction of DNA-duplication times, varied continuously from 0.6 for the wild-type E.coli K12 to 0.1 for strains with mutations in seqA, dam, dnaA, topA and gyr genes (all of which have been shown to cause asynchrony) and their various combinations. The asynchrony index, a quantitative indicator for the loss of synchrony of initiation, changed from low (synchronous) to high (asynchronous) values in a step-function-like relationship with the eclipse. An eclipse period of approximately 0.5 generation time appeared to be the critical value for the switch from synchronous to asynchronous initiation.