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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jun 2;275(22):16420-7.

Inhibition of flap endonuclease 1 by flap secondary structure and relevance to repeat sequence expansion.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the Cancer Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Recent genetic evidence indicates that null mutants of the 5'-flap endonuclease (FEN1) result in an expansion of repetitive sequences. The substrate for FEN1 is a flap formed by natural 5'-end displacement of the short intermediates of lagging strand replication. FEN1 binds the 5'-end of the flap, tracks to the point of annealing at the base of the flap, and then cleaves. Here we examine mechanisms by which foldback structures within the flap could contribute to repeat expansions. Cleavage by FEN1 was reduced with increased length of the foldback. However, even the longest foldbacks were cleaved at a low rate. Substrates containing the repetitive sequence CTG also were cleaved at a reduced rate. Bubble substrates, likely intermediates in repeat expansions, were inhibitory. Neither replication protein A nor proliferating cell nuclear antigen were able to assist in the removal of secondary structure within a flap. We propose that FEN1 cleaves natural foldbacks at a reduced rate. However, although the cleavage delay is not likely to influence the overall process of chromosomal replication, specific foldbacks could inhibit cleavage sufficiently to result in duplication of the foldback sequence.

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