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Hum Mol Genet. 1999 Jun;8(6):1061-7.

Cis-acting modifiers of expanded CAG/CTG triplet repeat expandability: associations with flanking GC content and proximity to CpG islands.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Genetics, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Anderson College, UK.


An increasing number of human genetic disorders are associated with the expansion of trinucleotide repeats. The majority of these diseases are associated with CAG/CTG expansions, including Huntington's disease, myotonic dystrophy and many of the spinocerebellar ataxias. Recently, two new expanded CAG/CTG repeats have been identified that are not associated with a phenotype. Expanded alleles at all of these loci are unstable, with frequent length changes during intergenerational transmission. However, variation in the relative levels of instability, and the size and direction of the length change mutations observed, between the CAG/CTG loci is apparent. We have quantified these differences, taking into account effects of progenitor allele length, by calculating the relative expandability of each repeat. Since the repeat motifs are the same, these differences must be a result of flanking sequence modifiers. We present data that indicate a strong correlation between the relative expandability of these repeats and the flanking GC content. Moreover, we demonstrate that the most expandable loci are all located within CpG islands. These data provide the first insights into the molecular bases of cis -acting flanking sequences modifying the relative mutability of dispersed expanded human triplet repeats.

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