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Cell. 1995 May 19;81(4):533-40.

Trinucleotide repeats that expand in human disease form hairpin structures in vitro.

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Mayo Foundation and Graduate School, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.


We show that repeating units from all reported disease genes are capable of forming hairpins of common structure and threshold stability. The threshold stability is roughly -50 kcal per hairpin and is influenced by the flanking sequence of the gene. Hairpin stability has two components, sequence and length; only DNA of select sequences and the correct length can form hairpins of threshold energy. There is a correlation among the ability to form hairpins of threshold stability, the sequence selectivity of expansion, and the length dependence of expansion. Additionally, hairpin formation provides a potential structural basis for the constancy of the CCG region of the Huntington's disease gene in individuals and explains the stabilizing effects of AGG interruptions in FMR1 alleles.

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