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Nucleic Acids Res. 1998 Sep 1;26(17):4078-85.

NGG-triplet repeats form similar intrastrand structures: implications for the triplet expansion diseases.

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Section on Genomic Structure and Function, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0830, USA.


Tandem repeats of certain trinucleotides show extensive intergenerational instability in humans that is associated with a class of genetic disorders known as the Triplet Expansion Diseases. This instability is thought to be a consequence of the formation of intrastrand structures, including hairpins, triplexes and tetraplexes, by the tandem repeats. I show here that CGG-repeats which are associated with this group of diseases, and AGG- and TGG-repeats which are not currently known to be, form several intrastrand structures including tetraplexes. In all cases the tetraplexes have the same overall conformation in which all the G residues are involved in G4-tetrads. CGG-repeats also form stable hairpins, but AGG- and TGG-repeats do not form hairpins of comparable stability. However, since tetraplexes can be thought of as folded hairpins, many of the properties ascribed to disease-associated triplets that form hairpins, may apply to these sequences as well. The fact that AGG- and TGG-repeats are not currently associated with any triplet expansion disease suggests either that the ability to adopt an intrastrand folded structure is not sufficient for expansion, or that other diseases associated with such triplets might remain to be identified.

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