Certain chromosome rearrangements, found in cancer cells or in cells exposed to ionizing radiation, exhibit a chromosome-wide delay in replication timing (DRT) that is associated with a delay in mitotic chromosome condensation (DMC). We have developed a chromosome engineering strategy that allows the generation of chromosomes with this DRT/DMC phenotype. We found that ∼10% of inter-chromosomal translocations induced by two distinct mechanisms, site-specific recombination mediated by Cre or non-homologous end joining of DNA double-strand breaks induced by I-Sce1, result in DRT/DMC. Furthermore, on certain balanced translocations only one of the derivative chromosomes displays the phenotype. Finally, we show that the engineered DRT/DMC chromosomes acquire gross chromosomal rearrangements at an increased rate when compared with non-DRT/DMC chromosomes. These results indicate that the DRT/DMC phenotype is not the result of a stochastic process that could occur at any translocation breakpoint or as an epigenetic response to chromosome damage. Instead, our data indicate that the replication timing of certain derivative chromosomes is regulated by a cis-acting mechanism that delays both initiation and completion of DNA synthesis along the entire length of the chromosome. Because chromosomes with DRT/DMC are common in tumor cells and in cells exposed to ionizing radiation, we propose that DRT/DMC represents a common mechanism responsible for the genomic instability found in cancer cells and for the persistent chromosomal instability associated with cells exposed to ionizing radiation.
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