Mechanisms of separation of the complementary strands of DNA during replication

A. I. Alexandrov, N. R. Cozzarelli, V. F. Holmes, A. B. Khodursky, B. J. Peter, L. Postow, V. Rybenkov, A. V. Vologodskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article is a perspective on the separation of the complementary strands of DNA during replication. Given the challenges of DNA strand separation and its vital importance, it is not surprising that cells have developed many strategies for promoting unlinking. We summarize seven different factors that contribute to strand separation and chromosome segregation. These are: (1) supercoiling promotes unlinking by condensation of DNA; (2) unlinking takes place throughout a replicating domain by the complementary action of topoisomerases on precatenanes and supercoils; (3) topological domains isolate the events near the replication fork and permit the supercoiling-dependent condensation of partially replicated DNA; (4) type-II topoisomerases use ATP to actively unlink DNA past the equilibrium position; (5) the effective DNA concentration in vivo is less than the global DNA concentration; (6) mechanical forces help unlink chromosomes; and (7) site-specific recombination promotes unlinking at the termination of replication by resolving circular dimeric chromosomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Bacterial chromosome
  • Chromosome segregation
  • Supercoiling
  • Topological domains
  • Unlinking


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