Cohesin participates in loop formation by extruding DNA fibers from its ring-shaped structure. Cohesin dysfunction eliminates chromatin loops but only causes modest transcription perturbation, which cannot fully explain the frequently observed mutations of cohesin in various cancers. Here, we found that DNA replication initiates at more than one thousand extra dormant origins after acute depletion of RAD21, a core subunit of cohesin, resulting in earlier replicating timing at approximately 30% of the human genomic regions. In contrast, CTCF is dispensable for suppressing the early firing of dormant origins that are distributed away from the loop boundaries. Furthermore, greatly elevated levels of gross DNA breaks and genome-wide chromosomal translocations arise in RAD21-depleted cells, accompanied by dysregulated replication timing at dozens of hotspot genes. Thus, we conclude that cohesin coordinates DNA replication initiation to ensure proper replication timing and safeguards genome integrity.

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