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EMBO J. 1998 Jun 15;17(12):3495-502.

Influences of array size and homogeneity on minisatellite mutation.

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Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK.


Unstable minisatellites display high frequencies of spontaneous gain and loss of repeats in the human germline. Most length changes arise through complex recombination events including intra-allelic duplications/deletions and inter-allelic transfers of repeats. Definition of the factors modulating instability requires both measurement of mutation rate and detailed analysis of mutant structures at the level of individual alleles. We have measured mutation rates in sperm for a wide range of alleles of the highly unstable human minisatellite CEB1. Instability varies by three orders of magnitude between alleles and increases steadily with the size of the tandem array. Structural analysis of mutant molecules derived from six alleles revealed that it is the rate of intra-allelic rearrangements which increases with array size and that intra-allelic duplication events tend to cluster within homogeneous segments of alleles; both phenomena resemble features of trinucleotide repeat instability. In contrast, inter-allelic transfers occur at a fairly constant rate, irrespective of array length, and show a mild polarity towards one end of the minisatellite, suggesting the possible influence of flanking DNA on these conversion-like events.

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