In early Xenopus development, transcription is repressed and DNA replication initiates at non-specific sites. Here, we show that a site-specific DNA replication origin can be induced in this context by the assembly of a transcription domain. Deletion of the promoter element abolishes site-specific initiation, and its relocalization to an ectopic site induces a new origin of replication. This process does not require active transcription, and specification of the origin occurs mainly through a decrease in non-specific initiation at sites distant from the promoter. Finally, chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments suggest that site-specific acetylation of histones favours the selection of the active DNA replication origin. We propose that the specification of active DNA replication origins occurs by secondary epigenetic events and that the programming of chromatin for transcription during development contributes to this selection in higher eukaryotes.