26 May 2017
The switch from self-renewal to differentiation coincides with a shorter S phase in which replication forks are faster.
Cell cycle regulators are increasingly implicated in cell fate decisions, such as the acquisition or loss of pluripotency and self-renewal potential. The cell cycle mechanisms that regulate these cell fate decisions are largely unknown. We studied an S phase–dependent cell fate switch, in which murine early erythroid progenitors transition in vivo from a self-renewal state into a phase of active erythroid gene transcription and concurrent maturational cell divisions. We found that progenitors are dependent on p57 KIP2-mediated slowing of replication forks for self-renewal, a novel function for cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. The switch to differentiation entails rapid down-regulation of p57 KIP2 with a consequent global increase in replication fork speed and an abruptly shorter S phase. Our work suggests that cell cycles with specialized global DNA replication dynamics are integral to the maintenance of specific cell states and to cell fate decisions.