Florida State University (FSU) researchers have unlocked a decades-old mystery about how a critical cellular process is regulated and what that could mean for the future study of genetics. They examined a single segment of DNA in the highest possible 3D resolution and saw three sequences along the DNA molecule touching each other frequently. They then used CRISPR to remove these three areas simultaneously. They found that these three elements together were key to DNA replication. Apparently, moving the three elements shifted the segment’s replication time from the very beginning to the very end of the process. Not only did this process affect replication timing, the removal of the three elements caused the 3D structure of the DNA to dramatically change.
For the first time the FSU team have pinpointed specific DNA sequences in the genome that regulate chromatin structure and replicate timing. The researchers noted “these results reflect one possible model of how DNA folds inside cells and how these folding patterns impact the hereditary materials’ function.” This opens up new paths of research in genetics. When timing is altered—as it was in this experiment, it can completely change how the genetic information of a cell is interpreted.