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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 1997 Jun;9(3):364-72.

The complex pathology of trinucleotide repeats.

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Department of Biology and Center for Cancer Research, Room E17-541, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 40 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The expansion of trinucleotide repeat sequences has now been shown to be the underlying cause of at least ten human disorders. Unifying features among these diseases include the unstable behavior of the triplet repeat during germline transmission when the length of the repeat exceeds a critical value. However, the trinucleotide repeat disorders can be divided into two distinct groups. Type I disorders involve the expansion of CAG repeats, which encode an expanded polyglutamine, inserted into the open-reading frame of a gene that is usually quite broadly expressed. Recently, mouse models for type I disorders have been developed and the basis of pathology is under study, both in these models and through biochemical and cell biological approaches. The type II disorders involve repeat expansions in noncoding regions of genes. The mechanisms by which these repeat expansions lead to pathology may be quite diverse.

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