Cdc6p establishes and maintains a state of replication competence during G1 phase.
CDC6 is essential for the initiation of DNA replication in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here we examine the timing of Cdc6p expression and function during the cell cycle. Cdc6p is expressed primarily between mitosis and Start. This pattern of expression is due in part to posttranscriptional controls, since it is maintained when CDC6 is driven by a constitutively induced promoter. Transcriptional repression of CDC6 or exposure of cdc6-1(ts) cells to the restrictive temperature at mitosis blocks subsequent S phase, demonstrating that the activity of newly synthesized Cdc6p is required each cell cycle for DNA replication. In contrast, similar perturbations imposed on cells arrested in G(1) before Start have moderate or no effects on DNA replication. This suggests that, between mitosis and Start, Cdc6p functions in an early step of initiation, effectively making cells competent for replication. Prolonged exposure of cdc6-1(ts) cells to the restrictive temperature at the pre-Start arrest eventually does cripple S phase, indicating that Cdc6p also functions to maintain this initiation competence during G(1). The requirement for Cdc6p to establish and maintain initiation competence tightly correlates with the requirement for Cdc6p to establish and maintain the pre-replicative complex at a replication origin, strongly suggesting that the pre-replicative complex is an important intermediate for the initiation of DNA replication. Confining assembly of the complex to G(1) by restricting expression of Cdc6p to this period may be one way of ensuring precisely one round of replication per cell cycle.