Kinetoplast DNA (kDNA), the mitochondrial DNA of Crithidia fasciculata and related trypanosomatids, is a network containing approximately 5,000 covalently closed minicircles which are topologically interlocked. kDNA synthesis involves release of covalently closed minicircles from the network, and, after replication of the free minicircles, reattachment of the nicked or gapped progeny minicircles to the network periphery. We have investigated this process by electron microscopy of networks at different stages of replication. The distribution of nicked and closed minicircles is easily detectable either by autoradiography of networks radiolabeled at endogenous nicks by nick translation or by twisting the covalently closed minicircles with intercalating dye. The location of newly synthesized minicircles within the network is determined by autoradiography of network is determined by autoradiography of networks labeled in vivo with a pulse of [3H]thymidine. These studies have clarified structural changes in the network during replication, the timing of repair of nicked minicircles after replication, and the mechanism of division of the network.

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