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Biophys J. 2007 Apr 1;92(7):2498-506. Epub 2007 Jan 5.

Mechanism of copper mediated triple helix formation at neutral pH in Drosophila satellite repeats.

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Laboratoire de Biophysique Moléculaire, Cellulaire et Tissulaire (BioMoCeTi), Unité Mixte de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 7033, Université Paris 13, 93017 Bobigny cedex, France.


The highly repeated Drosophila melanogaster AAGAGAG satellite sequence is present at each chromosome centromere of the fly. We demonstrate here how, under nearly physiological pH conditions, these sequences can form a pyrimidine triple helix containing T.A-T and CCu.G-C base triplets, stabilized by Cu2+ metal ions in amounts mirroring in vivo concentrations. Ultraviolet experiments were used to monitor the triple helix formation at pH 7.2 in presence of Cu2+ ions. Triplex melting is observed at 23 degrees C. Furthermore, a characteristic signature of triple helix formation was obtained by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The stabilization of the C.G-C base triplets at pH 7.2 is shown to occur via interactions of Cu2+ ions on the third strand cytosine N3 atom and on the guanine N7 atom of the polypurine target strand forming CCu.G-C triplets. Under the same neutral pH conditions in absence of Cu2+ ions, the triple helix fails to form. Possible biological implications are discussed.

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