DNA replication in mammals is temporally bimodal. "Housekeeping" genes, which are active in all cells, replicate during the first half of the S phase of cell growth. Tissue-specific genes replicate early in those cells in which they are potentially expressed, and they usually replicate late in tissues in which they are not expressed. Replication during the first half of the S phase is, therefore, a necessary but not sufficient condition for gene transcription. A change in the replication timing of a tissue-specific gene appears to reflect the commitment of that gene to transcriptional competence or to quiescence during ontogeny. Most families of middle repetitive sequences replicate either early or late. These data are consistent with a model in which two functionally distinct genomes coexist in the nucleus.