We define chromosomal replication complexity (CRC) as the ratio of the copy number of the most replicated regions to that of unreplicated regions on the same chromosome. Although a typical CRC of eukaryotic or bacterial chromosomes is 2, rapidly growing Escherichia coli cells induce an extra round of replication in their chromosomes (CRC = 4). There are also E. coli mutants with stable CRC∼6. We have investigated the limits and consequences of elevated CRC in E. coli and found three limits: the “natural” CRC limit of ∼8 (cells divide more slowly); the “functional” CRC limit of ∼22 (cells divide extremely slowly); and the “tolerance” CRC limit of ∼64 (cells stop dividing). While the natural limit is likely maintained by the eclipse system spacing replication initiations, the functional limit might reflect the capacity of the chromosome segregation system, rather than dedicated mechanisms, and the tolerance limit may result from titration of limiting replication factors. Whereas recombinational repair is beneficial for cells at the natural and functional CRC limits, we show that it becomes detrimental at the tolerance CRC limit, suggesting recombinational misrepair during the runaway overreplication and giving a rationale for avoidance of the latter.
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