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Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Feb 1;41(3):1817-28. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks1333. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

Transcription blockage by homopurine DNA sequences: role of sequence composition and single-strand breaks.

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Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The ability of DNA to adopt non-canonical structures can affect transcription and has broad implications for genome functioning. We have recently reported that guanine-rich (G-rich) homopurine-homopyrimidine sequences cause significant blockage of transcription in vitro in a strictly orientation-dependent manner: when the G-rich strand serves as the non-template strand [Belotserkovskii et al. (2010) Mechanisms and implications of transcription blockage by guanine-rich DNA sequences., Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA, 107, 12816-12821]. We have now systematically studied the effect of the sequence composition and single-stranded breaks on this blockage. Although substitution of guanine by any other base reduced the blockage, cytosine and thymine reduced the blockage more significantly than adenine substitutions, affirming the importance of both G-richness and the homopurine-homopyrimidine character of the sequence for this effect. A single-strand break in the non-template strand adjacent to the G-rich stretch dramatically increased the blockage. Breaks in the non-template strand result in much weaker blockage signals extending downstream from the break even in the absence of the G-rich stretch. Our combined data support the notion that transcription blockage at homopurine-homopyrimidine sequences is caused by R-loop formation.

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