To study the mechanism by which ultraviolet (UV) light inhibits DNA replication, we examined the effects of UV 254 nm irradiation on the replication of simian virus 40 (SV40) DNA and SV40-based plasmid in monkey cells. The study was designed to determine the relative contributions made by inhibition of replication initiation and chain elongation to the immediate inhibition of DNA replication following UV irradiation. We used two-dimensional neutral-alkaline electrophoresis to examine the behaviour of replication intermediates unambiguously. Kinetic analysis using this technique showed that initiation of replication started to decline at 15 min post-irradiation. When the pulse label incorporated in SV40 replication intermediates before irradiation was chased for 1 h, most of the label was found in mature Form I and II molecules. This indicated that replication elongation took place on damaged template. We also used a transfection technique to show that heavily irradiated plasmids replicated efficiently in unirradiated transfected cells. By the transfection technique, we observed that UV irradiation of host cells dose-dependently inhibited replication of transfected non-irradiated plasmids, suggesting that the inhibition of DNA replication is due to a global change in cellular physiology induced by UV. This change was also apparent from poor staining of the chromatin by flosrescent-DNA-binding dyes immediately after UV irradiation of intact cells. We conclude that a significant fraction of chain elongation proceeds on damaged templates and DNA replication during the acute response of cells irradiated with UV is mainly controlled by the inhibition of replication initiation.
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