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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jun 16;275(24):18382-90.

Base stacking and even/odd behavior of hairpin loops in DNA triplet repeat slippage and expansion with DNA polymerase.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Hedco Molecular Biology Laboratories, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-1340, USA.


Repetitions of CAG or CTG triplets in DNA can form intrastrand hairpin loops with combinations of normal and mismatched base pairs that easily rearrange. Such loops may promote primer-template slippage in DNA replication or repair to give triplet-repeat expansions like those associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Using self-priming sequences (e.g. (CAG)(16)(CTG)(4)), we resolve all hairpin loops formed and measure their slippage and expansion rates with DNA polymerase at 37 degrees C. Comparing CAG/CTG loop structures with GAC/GTC structures, having similar hydrogen bonding but different base stacking, we find that CAG, CTG, and GTC triplets predominantly form even-membered loops that slip in steps of two triplets, whereas GAC triplets favor odd-numbered loops. Slippage rates decline as hairpin stability increases, supporting the idea that slippage initiates more easily in less stable regions. Loop stabilities (in low salt) increase in the order GTC < CAG < GAC < CTG, while slippage rates decrease in the order GTC > CAG approximately GAC > CTG. Loops of GTC compared with CTG melt 9 degrees C lower and slip 6-fold faster. We interpret results in terms of base stacking, by relating melting temperature to standard enthalpy changes for doublets of base pairs and mispairs, considering enthalpy-entropy compensation.

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