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J Mol Biol. 1998 Dec 4;284(3):633-46.

Primer-template misalignments during leading strand DNA synthesis account for the most frequent spontaneous mutations in a quasipalindromic region in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, 2121 W. Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030-3303, USA.


Spontaneous mutant sequences which differ from the starting DNA sequence by the specific correction of quasipalindromic to perfect palindromic sequence are hallmarks of mutagenesis mediated by misalignments directed by palindromic complementarity. The mutant sequences are specifically predicted by templated, but ectopic, DNA polymerization on a misaligned DNA substrate. In a previous study, we characterized a spontaneous frameshift hotspot near a 17 bp quasipalindromic DNA sequence within the mutant chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) gene of plasmid pJT7. A one base-pair insertion hotspot, ectopically templated by misalignment mediated by palindromic complementarity, was shown to occur more frequently during synthesis of the leading than the lagging DNA strand. Here we analyze the misalignment mechanisms that can account for the DNA sequences of 123 additional spontaneous frameshift mutations (22 distinct genotypes) occurring in the same quasipalindromic DNA region in plasmids pJT7 and p7TJ (a pJT7 derivative with the CAT gene in the inverse orientation). Approximately 80% of the small frameshift mutants in each plasmid are predicted by palindromic misalignments of the leading strand. Smaller numbers of mutations are consistent with other DNA misalignments, including those predicted by simple slippage of the nascent DNA strand on its template. The results show that remarkable changes in the mutation spectra of a reporter gene may not be revealed by measurements of mutation frequency.

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