Research Article

Replication timing maintains the global epigenetic state in human cells

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Science  23 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6540, pp. 371-378
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba5545

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Replication timing organizes epigenome

The temporal order of DNA replication is conserved from yeast to humans, but its biological significance remains unclear. Klein et al. eliminated the protein RIF1, a master regulator of replication timing, in several human cell lines. RIF1 loss during the G1 phase of the cell cycle resulted in a heterogeneous, nearly random replication timing program from the first S phase that persisted even in stable RIF1-null clones. Altered replication timing was followed by replication-dependent redistribution of active and repressive histone modifications and alterations in genome architecture. These results support a model in which replication timing orchestrates the epigenetic state of newly replicated chromatin.

Science, this issue p. 371


The temporal order of DNA replication [replication timing (RT)] is correlated with chromatin modifications and three-dimensional genome architecture; however, causal links have not been established, largely because of an inability to manipulate the global RT program. We show that loss of RIF1 causes near-complete elimination of the RT program by increasing heterogeneity between individual cells. RT changes are coupled with widespread alterations in chromatin modifications and genome compartmentalization. Conditional depletion of RIF1 causes replication-dependent disruption of histone modifications and alterations in genome architecture. These effects were magnified with successive cycles of altered RT. These results support models in which the timing of chromatin replication and thus assembly plays a key role in maintaining the global epigenetic state.

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