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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Jan;40(2):e16. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1075. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Quantitative model of R-loop forming structures reveals a novel level of RNA-DNA interactome complexity.

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Department of Genome and Gene Expression Data Analysis, Bioinformatics Institute, Singapore 138671.


R-loop is the structure co-transcriptionally formed between nascent RNA transcript and DNA template, leaving the non-transcribed DNA strand unpaired. This structure can be involved in the hyper-mutation and dsDNA breaks in mammalian immunoglobulin (Ig) genes, oncogenes and neurodegenerative disease related genes. R-loops have not been studied at the genome scale yet. To identify the R-loops, we developed a computational algorithm and mapped R-loop forming sequences (RLFS) onto 66,803 sequences defined by UCSC as 'known' genes. We found that ∼59% of these transcribed sequences contain at least one RLFS. We created R-loopDB (, the database that collects all RLFS identified within over half of the human genes and links to the UCSC Genome Browser for information integration and visualisation across a variety of bioinformatics sources. We found that many oncogenes and tumour suppressors (e.g. Tp53, BRCA1, BRCA2, Kras and Ptprd) and neurodegenerative diseases related genes (e.g. ATM, Park2, Ptprd and GLDC) could be prone to significant R-loop formation. Our findings suggest that R-loops provide a novel level of RNA-DNA interactome complexity, playing key roles in gene expression controls, mutagenesis, recombination process, chromosomal rearrangement, alternative splicing, DNA-editing and epigenetic modifications. RLFSs could be used as a novel source of prospective therapeutic targets.

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