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DNA Repair (Amst). 2010 Nov 10;9(11):1119-29. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2010.07.014. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

Telomeric repeat mutagenicity in human somatic cells is modulated by repeat orientation and G-quadruplex stability.

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  • 1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, PA 15219, United States.


Telomeres consisting of tandem guanine-rich repeats can form secondary DNA structures called G-quadruplexes that represent potential targets for DNA repair enzymes. While G-quadruplexes interfere with DNA synthesis in vitro, the impact of G-quadruplex formation on telomeric repeat replication in human cells is not clear. We investigated the mutagenicity of telomeric repeats as a function of G-quadruplex folding opportunity and thermal stability using a shuttle vector mutagenesis assay. Since single-stranded DNA during lagging strand replication increases the opportunity for G-quadruplex folding, we tested vectors with G-rich sequences on the lagging versus the leading strand. Contrary to our prediction, vectors containing human [TTAGGG]₁₀ repeats with a G-rich lagging strand were significantly less mutagenic than vectors with a G-rich leading strand, after replication in normal human cells. We show by UV melting experiments that G-quadruplexes from ciliates [TTGGGG]₄ and [TTTTGGGG]₄ are thermally more stable compared to human [TTAGGG]₄. Consistent with this, replication of vectors with ciliate [TTGGGG]₁₀ repeats yielded a 3-fold higher mutant rate compared to the human [TTAGGG]₁₀ vectors. Furthermore, we observed significantly more mutagenic events in the ciliate repeats compared to the human repeats. Our data demonstrate that increased G-quadruplex opportunity (repeat orientation) in human telomeric repeats decreased mutagenicity, while increased thermal stability of telomeric G-quadruplexes was associated with increased mutagenicity.

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