We describe a cell-free extract derived from the oocytes of Xenopus laevis. The oocyte extract is capable of decondensing sperm chromatin and of replicating single-stranded DNA in a semiconservative, aphidicolin-sensitive manner. In addition, oocyte extract supports the elongation phase of DNA synthesis in nuclei that have been preinitiated for replication. All of these properties are shared by previously described egg extracts. However, oocyte extracts differ from egg extracts in two important ways. First, they cannot support nuclear assembly, as visualised by phase-contrast, fluorescence and electron microscopy. Second, they do not initiate replication on chromatin or nuclei de novo. Crude low-speed supernatants can be partially fractionated into soluble and vesicular components by high-speed centrifugation. Such fractions from eggs can be functionally reconstituted, but the oocyte soluble fraction does not acquire the ability to assemble nuclei, or replicate them, even when supplemented with the egg vesicular fraction. Similarly, oocyte vesicles cannot substitute for egg vesicles on reconstitution with the egg soluble fraction. When the requirement for nuclear assembly is bypassed by using preformed, quiescent nuclei, replication is observed in egg but not oocyte extracts. However, the oocyte extract is not inhibitory for initiation of replication, as it does not prevent replication of sperm nuclei when mixed with egg extract. We suggest that the different capabilities of egg and oocyte extracts could provide the basis of an assay system for identifying factors involved in the initiation of DNA replication.

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