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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Oct 13;95(21):12438-43.

Orientation-dependent and sequence-specific expansions of CTG/CAG trinucleotide repeats in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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


A quantitative and selective genetic assay was developed to monitor expansions of trinucleotide repeats (TNRs) in yeast. A promoter containing 25 repeats allows expression of a URA3 reporter gene and yields sensitivity to the drug 5-fluoroorotic acid. Expansion of the TNR to 30 or more repeats turns off URA3 and provides drug resistance. When integrated at either of two chromosomal loci, expansion rates were 1 x 10(-5) to 4 x 10(-5) per generation if CTG repeats were replicated on the lagging daughter strand. PCR analysis indicated that 5-28 additional repeats were present in 95% of the expanded alleles. No significant changes in CTG expansion rates occurred in strains deficient in the mismatch repair gene MSH2 or the recombination gene RAD52. The frequent nature of CTG expansions suggests that the threshold number for this repeat is below 25 in this system. In contrast, expansions of the complementary repeat CAG occurred at 500- to 1,000-fold lower rates, similar to a randomized (C,A,G) control sequence. When the reporter plasmid was inverted within the chromosome, switching the leading and lagging strands of replication, frequent expansions were observed only when CTG repeats resided on the lagging daughter strand. Among the rare CAG expansions, the largest gain in tract size was 38 repeats. The control repeats CTA and TAG showed no detectable rate of expansions. The orientation-dependence and sequence-specificity data support the model that expansions of CTG and CAG tracts result from aberrant DNA replication via hairpin-containing Okazaki fragments.

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