The replication dynamics at common fragile site FRA6E has been evaluated by molecular combing and interphase fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) in primary human lymphocytes cultured under normal or aphidicolin-induced stress conditions. FRA6E is one of the most frequently expressed common fragile sites of the human genome. It harbours several genes, PARK2 being regarded as the most relevant one. According to the results obtained from interphase FISH analysis, FRA6E can be considered a mid-late-replicating sequence characterised by heterogeneous replication timing. Molecular combing did not reveal specific replication parameters at the fragile site: fork rates were highly comparable to those detected at an early replicating locus (LMNB2) used as control and in very good agreement with the whole-genome data obtained in parallel. The same indication applied to the density of initiation zones, the inter-origin distances from adjacent ongoing forks, the frequencies of unidirectional forks, fork arrest events and asynchronous forks. Interestingly, PARK2 appeared embedded in an early/late replication transition zone, corresponding to intron 8 (162 kb) and to the fragility core of FRA6E. In cells exposed to aphidicolin, few forks progressing at a rather slow rate were observed, the majority of them being unidirectional, but again a specific response of the fragile site was not observed. In summary, at FRA6E the replication process is not impaired per se, but chromosome breakages occur preferentially at an early/late replication transition zone. Aphidicolin might increase the occurrence of breakage events at FRA6E by prolonging the time interval separating the replication of early and late replication domains. These results may be of general significance to address the problem of fragile site instability.
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