Non‐B DNA Structure and Mutations Causing Human Genetic Disease

Cardiff University, Institute of Medical Genetics, School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022657 In book: eLS
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Available from: Albino Bacolla, Jun 22, 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Over 20 unstable microsatellite repeats have been identified as the cause of neurological disease in humans. The repeat nucleotide sequences, their location within the genes, the ranges of normal and disease-causing repeat length and the clinical outcomes differ. Unstable repeats can be located in the coding or the non-coding region of a gene. Different pathogenic mechanisms that are hypothesised to underlie the diseases are discussed. Evidence is given both from studies in simple model systems and from studies on human material and in animal models. Since somatic instability might affect the clinical outcome, this is briefly touched on. Available data and theories on the timing and mechanisms of the repeat instability itself are discussed, along with factors that have been observed to affect instability. Finally, the question of why the often harmful unstable repeats have been maintained throughout evolution is addressed.
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    ABSTRACT: Left-handed Z-DNA is a higher-energy form of the double helix, stabilized by negative supercoiling generated by transcription or unwrapping nucleosomes. Regions near the transcription start site frequently contain sequence motifs favourable for forming Z-DNA, and formation of Z-DNA near the promoter region stimulates transcription. Z-DNA is also stabilized by specific protein binding; several proteins have been identified with low nanomolar binding constants. Z-DNA occurs in a dynamic state, forming as a result of physiological processes then relaxing to the right-handed B-DNA. Each time a DNA segment turns into Z-DNA, two B-Z junctions form. These have been examined extensively, but their structure was unknown. Here we describe the structure of a B-Z junction as revealed by X-ray crystallography at 2.6 A resolution. A 15-base-pair segment of DNA is stabilized at one end in the Z conformation by Z-DNA binding proteins, while the other end remains B-DNA. Continuous stacking of bases between B-DNA and Z-DNA segments is found, with the breaking of one base pair at the junction and extrusion of the bases on each side (Fig. 1). These extruded bases may be sites for DNA modification.
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