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J Biol Chem. 1998 Jun 5;273(23):14588-95.

Inhibitory effects of expanded GAA.TTC triplet repeats from intron I of the Friedreich ataxia gene on transcription and replication in vivo.

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  • 1Centre de Recherche Louis-Charles Simard, C.H.U.M., Campus Notre-Dame, 1560 rue Sherbrooke est, Montréal, Québec H2L 4M1, Canada.


Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is associated with the expansion of a GAA. TTC triplet repeat in the first intron of the frataxin gene, resulting in reduced levels of frataxin mRNA and protein. To investigate the mechanisms by which the intronic expansion produces its effect, GAA.TTC repeats of various lengths (9 to 270 triplets) were cloned in both orientations in the intron of a reporter gene. Plasmids containing these repeats were transiently transfected into COS-7 cells. A length- and orientation-dependent inhibition of reporter gene expression was observed. RNase protection and Northern blot analyses showed very low levels of mature mRNA when longer GAA repeats were transcribed, with no accumulation of primary transcript. Replication of plasmids carrying long GAA.TTC tracts (approximately 250 triplets) was greatly inhibited in COS-7 cells compared with plasmids carrying (GAA.TTC)9 and (GAA.TTC)90. Replication inhibition was five times greater for the plasmid whose transcript contains (GAA)230 than for the plasmid whose transcript contains (UUC)270. Our in vivo investigation revealed that expanded GAA.TTC repeats from intron I of the FRDA gene inhibit transcription rather than post-transcriptional RNA processing and also interfere with replication. The molecular basis for these effects may be the formation of non-B DNA structures.

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