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Characterizing Replication Intermediates In The Amplified CHO Dihydrofolate Reductase Domain By Two Novel Gel Electrophoretic Techniques.

R F Kalejta, H B Lin, P A Dijkwel, J L Hamlin

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Using neutral/neutral and neutral/alkaline two-dimensional (2-D) gel techniques, we previously obtained evidence that initiation can occur at any of a large number of sites distributed throughout a broad initiation zone in the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) domain of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. However, other techniques have suggested a much more circumscribed mode of initiation in this locus. This dichotomy has raised the issue whether the patterns of replicating DNA on 2-D gels have been misinterpreted and, in some cases, may represent such noncanonical replication intermediates as broken bubbles or microbubbles. In an accompanying study (R. F. Kalejta and J. L. Hamlin, Mol. Cell. Biol. 16:4915-4922, 1996), we have shown that broken bubbles migrate to unique positions in three different gel systems and therefore are not likely to be confused with classic replication intermediates. Here, we have applied a broken bubble assay developed from that study to an analysis of the amplified DHFR locus in CHO cells. This assay gives information about the number and positions of initiation sites within a fragment. In addition, we have analyzed the DHFR locus by a novel stop-and-go-alkaline gel technique that measures the size of nascent strands at all positions along each arc in a neutral/neutral 2-D gel. Results of these analyses support the view that the 2-D gel patterns previously assigned to classic, intact replication bubbles and single-forked structures indeed correspond to these entities. Furthermore, potential nascent-strand start sites appear to be distributed at very frequent intervals along the template in the intergenic region in the DHFR domain.