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Nucleic Acids Res. Mar 25, 1995; 23(6): 1050–1059.
PMCID: PMC306804

Hairpin properties of single-stranded DNA containing a GC-rich triplet repeat: (CTG)15.


Although triplet repeat DNA sequences are scattered throughout the human genome, their biological function remains obscure. To aid in correlating potential structures of these nucleic acids with their function, we propose their classification based on the presence or absence of a palindromic dinucleotide within the triplet, the G + C content, and the presence or absence of a homopolymer. Five classes of double-stranded (ds) triplet repeats are distinguished. Class I repeats, which are defined by the presence of a GC or CG palindrome, have the lowest base stacking energies, exhibit the lowest rates of slippage synthesis [Schlötterer and Tautz (1992) Nucleic Acids Res., 20, 211] and are uniquely associated with triplet repeat expansion diseases. The six single-stranded (ss) triplet repeats within Class I also have the potential to form hairpin structures, as determined by energy minimization. To explore the possibility of hairpin formation by ss Class I triplet repeats, studies were performed with a ss oligonucleotide containing 15 prototypic CTG repeats [ss (CTG)15]. Electrophoretic, P1 nuclease and KMnO4 oxidation data demonstrate that ss (CTG)15 forms a hairpin containing base paired and/or stacked thymines in the stem. Potential functions of hairpins containing Class I triplet repeats are discussed with respect to protein translation and mRNA splicing. Further, potential roles of hairpin structures in triplet repeat expansion events are discussed.

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