The timing of DNA replication in the Xq27 portion of the human X chromosome was studied in cells derived from normal and fragile X males to further characterize the replication delay on fragile X chromosomes. By examining a number of sequence-tagged sites (STSs) that span several megabases of Xq27, we found this portion of the normal active X chromosome to be composed of two large zones with different replication times in fibroblasts, lymphocytes, and lymphoblastoid cells. The centromere-proximal zone replicates very late in S, whereas the distal zone normally replicates somewhat earlier and contains FMR1, the gene responsible for fragile X syndrome when mutated. Our analysis of the region of delayed replication in fragile X cells indicates that it extends at least 400 kb 5' of FMR1 and appears to merge with the normal zone of very late replication in proximal Xq27. The distal border of delayed replication varies among different fragile X males, thereby defining three replicon-sized domains that can be affected in fragile X syndrome. The distal boundary of the largest region of delayed replication is located between 350 and 600 kb 3' of FMR1. This example of variable spreading of late replication into multiple replicons in fragile X provides a model for the spread of inactivation associated with position-effect variegation or X chromosome inactivation.