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Genetics. 2001 Apr;157(4):1569-79.

Cis-elements governing trinucleotide repeat instability in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska 68198-6805, USA.


Trinucleotide repeat (TNR) instability in humans is governed by unique cis-elements. One element is a threshold, or minimal repeat length, conferring frequent mutations. Since thresholds have not been directly demonstrated in model systems, their molecular nature remains uncertain. Another element is sequence specificity. Unstable TNR sequences are almost always CNG, whose hairpin-forming ability is thought to promote instability by inhibiting DNA repair. To understand these cis-elements further, TNR expansions and contractions were monitored by yeast genetic assays. A threshold of approximately 15--17 repeats was observed for CTG expansions and contractions, indicating that thresholds function in organisms besides humans. Mutants lacking the flap endonuclease Rad27p showed little change in the expansion threshold, suggesting that this element is not altered by the presence or absence of flap processing. CNG or GNC sequences yielded frequent mutations, whereas A-T rich sequences were substantially more stable. This sequence analysis further supports a hairpin-mediated mechanism of TNR instability. Expansions and contractions occurred at comparable rates for CTG tract lengths between 15 and 25 repeats, indicating that expansions can comprise a significant fraction of mutations in yeast. These results indicate that several unique cis-elements of human TNR instability are functional in yeast.

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