Using pulse labeling techniques with [3H]thymidine or [3H]cytidine, combined with DNA fiber autoradiography, we have investigated the direction and rate of DNA chain growth in mammalian cells. In general, chain elongation proceeds bidirectionally from the common origin of pairs of adjacent replication sections. This type of replication is noted whether the DNA is labeled first with [3H]thymidine of high specific activity, followed by [3H]thymidine of low specific activity or the sequence is reversed. Approximately one-fifth of the growing points have unique origins and in these replication units, chain growth proceeds in one direction only. Fluorodeoxyuridine and hydroxyurea both inhibit DNA chain propagation. Fluorodeoxyuridine exerts its effect on chain growth within 15–23 min, while the effect of hydroxyurea is evident within 15 min under conditions where the endogenous thymidine pool has been depleted by prior treatment with fluorodeoxyuridine. Puromycin has no effect on chain growth until 60 min after addition of the compound, even though thymidine incorporation is more than 50% reduced within 15 min. After 2 h of treatment with puromycin, the rate of chain growth is reduced by 50%, whereas thymidine incorporation is reduced by 75%. Cycloheximide reduces the rates of DNA chain growth and thymidine incorporation 50% within 15 min, and, on prolonged treatment, the decrease in rate of chain growth generally parallels the reduction in thymidine incorporation.

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