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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 Nov;36(19):6260-8. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn511. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

G-quadruplexes: the beginning and end of UTRs.

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Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, JJ Thompson Ave, Cambridge, UK.


Molecular mechanisms that regulate gene expression can occur either before or after transcription. The information for post-transcriptional regulation can lie within the sequence or structure of the RNA transcript and it has been proposed that G-quadruplex nucleic acid sequence motifs may regulate translation as well as transcription. Here, we have explored the incidence of G-quadruplex motifs in and around the untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNA. We observed a significant strand asymmetry, consistent with a general depletion of G-quadruplex-forming RNA. We also observed a positional bias in two distinct regions, each suggestive of a specific function. We observed an excess of G-quadruplex motifs towards the 5'-ends of 5'-UTRs, supportive of a hypothesis linking 5'-UTR RNA G-quadruplexes to translational control. We then analysed the vicinity of 3'-UTRs and observed an over-representation of G-quadruplex motifs immediately after the 3'-end of genes, especially in those cases where another gene is in close proximity, suggesting that G-quadruplexes may be involved in the termination of gene transcription.

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