An in vitro assay was developed to study the positive factors that regulate the onset of DNA replication during the mammalian cell cycle. Extracts prepared from cells at defined positions in the cell cycle were used to examine the replication of SV40 DNA in a cell free system. Extracts prepared from S phase cells were ten times more efficient at initiating replication at the SV40 origin than were extracts from G1 cells, whereas elongation rates were similar in G1 and S reactions. At a discrete point in the cell cycle, just before the cell's entry into S, an activity appeared that was required, in conjunction with SV40 T antigen, for site specific initiation at the SV40 origin. This factor had a role in unwinding DNA at the replication origin.
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