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J Mol Biol. 1999 Feb 5;285(5):2035-52.

The high-resolution structure of the triplex formed by the GAA/TTC triplet repeat associated with Friedreich's ataxia.

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Life Sciences Division, LS-2 MS 880, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, 87545, USA.


Expansions of the triplet repeat, GAA/TTC, inside the first intron of the frataxin gene causes Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA). It was of interest to us to examine whether the FRDA repeat forms an unusual DNA structure, since formation of such structure during replication may cause its expansion. Here, we show that the FRDA repeat forms a triplex in which the TTC strand folds on either side of the same GAA strand. We have determined the high-resolution NMR structures of two intramolecularly folded FRDA triplexes, (GAA)2T4(TTC)2T4(CTT)2 and (GAA)2T4(TTC)2T2CT2(CTT)2 with T.A.T and C+.G.C triads. T4 represents a synthetic loop sequence, whereas T2CT2 is the natural loop-folding sequence of the TTC strand. We have also made use of site-specific 15N-labeling of the cytosine residues to investigate their protonation status and their interaction with other protons. We show that the cytosine residues of the Hoogsteen C+.G pairs in this triplex are protonated close to physiological pH. Therefore, it appears that the triplex formation offers a plausible explanation for the expansion of the GAA/TTC repeats in FRDA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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