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The DNA replication (or origin) licensing machinery ensures precise duplication of the genome and contributes to the regulation of proliferative capacity in metazoa. Using an in vitro fibroblast model system coupled to a cell-free DNA replication assay, we have studied regulation of the origin licensing pathway during exit from and re-entry into the mitotic cell cycle. We show that in the quiescent state (G0) loss of proliferative capacity is achieved in part through down-regulation of the replication licensing factors Cdc6 and Mcm2-7. The origin licensing repressor geminin is absent in quiescent fibroblasts, suggesting that this powerful inhibitor of the licensing machinery is not required to suppress proliferative capacity in G0. Geminin expression is induced at a late stage in the G0-S transition post pre-RC assembly. Ectopic geminin can block re-acquisition of DNA replication competence during re-entry into the cell cycle, indicating that geminin levels must be tightly down-regulated for escape from G0. Analysis of geminin levels in thyroid shows that geminin expression is suppressed in anatomical compartments/tissues harbouring quiescent cells, confirming our in vitro data. Spatio-temporal control of geminin expression may therefore be of particular relevance for multi-potential stem cells which cycle infrequently. In support of this hypothesis, we have identified a unique population of cells in the putative stem cell niche of intestinal epithelium that are unlicensed and lack geminin expression, a prerequisite for successful re-entry into cycle. Our data argue that the prolonged cell cycle times observed for intestinal stem cells could be due to exit of progenitor cells from cycle into an unlicensed "out-of-cycle" state, a powerful mechanism by which rapidly proliferating tissues may resist genotoxic insult. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Experimental Cell Research

Publication Date





56 - 67