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Open Access Research article

Cytometry of chromatin bound Mcm6 and PCNA identifies two states in G1 that are separated functionally by the G1 restriction point1

Phyllis S Frisa and James W Jacobberger*

Author Affiliations

Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-26

Published: 16 April 2010



Cytometric measurements of DNA content and chromatin-bound Mcm2 have demonstrated bimodal patterns of expression in G1. These patterns, the replication licensing function of Mcm proteins, and a correlation between Mcm loading and cell cycle commitment for cells re-entering the cell cycle, led us to test the idea that cells expressing a defined high level of chromatin-bound Mcm6 in G1 are committed - i.e., past the G1 restriction point. We developed a cell-based assay for tightly-bound PCNA (PCNA*) and Mcm6 (Mcm6*), DNA content, and a mitotic marker to clearly define G1, S, G2, and M phases of the cell cycle. hTERT-BJ1, hTERT-RPE-1, and Molt4 cells were extracted with Triton X-100 followed by methanol fixation, stained with antibodies and DAPI, then measured by cytometry.


Bivariate analysis of cytometric data demonstrated complex patterns with distinct clustering for all combinations of the 4 variables. In G1, cells clustered in two groups characterized by low and high Mcm6* expression. Serum starvation and release experiments showed that residence in the high group was in late G1, just prior to S phase. Kinetic experiments, employing serum withdrawal, and stathmokinetic analysis with aphidicolin, mimosine or nocodazole demonstrated that cells with high levels of Mcm6* cycled with the committed phases of the cell cycle (S, G2, and M).


A multivariate assay for Mcm6*, PCNA*, DNA content, and a mitotic marker provides analysis capable of estimating the fraction of pre and post-restriction point G1 cells and supports the idea that there are at least two states in G1 defined by levels of chromatin bound Mcm proteins.