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Biochimie. 2008 Aug;90(8):1117-30. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2008.02.011. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

DNA triple helices: biological consequences and therapeutic potential.

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Department of Carcinogenesis, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Science Park--Research Division, 1808 Park Road 1-C, P.O. Box 389, Smithville, TX 78957, USA.


DNA structure is a critical element in determining its function. The DNA molecule is capable of adopting a variety of non-canonical structures, including three-stranded (i.e. triplex) structures, which will be the focus of this review. The ability to selectively modulate the activity of genes is a long-standing goal in molecular medicine. DNA triplex structures, either intermolecular triplexes formed by binding of an exogenously applied oligonucleotide to a target duplex sequence, or naturally occurring intramolecular triplexes (H-DNA) formed at endogenous mirror repeat sequences, present exploitable features that permit site-specific alteration of the genome. These structures can induce transcriptional repression and site-specific mutagenesis or recombination. Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) can bind to duplex DNA in a sequence-specific fashion with high affinity, and can be used to direct DNA-modifying agents to selected sequences. H-DNA plays important roles in vivo and is inherently mutagenic and recombinogenic, such that elements of the H-DNA structure may be pharmacologically exploitable. In this review we discuss the biological consequences and therapeutic potential of triple helical DNA structures. We anticipate that the information provided will stimulate further investigations aimed toward improving DNA triplex-related gene targeting strategies for biotechnological and potential clinical applications.

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