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Novel Discovery on Role of Triplex DNA in Genome Instability and Promotion of Hereditary Neurodegenerative Disorder

By 7th February 2020No Comments

The following study was conducted by Scientists from Tufts University, Medford, USA.  Study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal as detailed below.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020); 117(3): 1628-1637

Large-Scale Contractions of Friedreich’s Ataxia GAA Repeats in Yeast Occur During DNA Replication Due to Their Triplex-Forming Ability


Expansions of GAA repeats cause a severe hereditary neurodegenerative disease, Friedreich’s ataxia. In this study, we characterized the mechanisms of GAA repeat contractions in a yeast experimental system. These mechanisms might, in the long run, aid development of a therapy for this currently incurable disease. We show that GAA repeats contract during DNA replication, which can explain the high level of somatic instability of this repeat in patient tissues. We also provided evidence that a triple-stranded DNA structure is at the heart of GAA repeat instability. This discovery highlights the role of triplex DNA in genome instability and human disease.


Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is a human hereditary disease caused by the presence of expanded (GAA)n repeats in the first intron of the FXN gene [V. Campuzano et al., Science 271, 1423–1427 (1996)]. In somatic tissues of FRDA patients, (GAA)n repeat tracts are highly unstable, with contractions more common than expansions [R. Sharma et al., Hum. Mol. Genet. 11, 2175–2187 (2002)]. Here we describe an experimental system to characterize GAA repeat contractions in yeast and to conduct a genetic analysis of this process. We found that large-scale contraction is a one-step process, resulting in a median loss of ∼60 triplet repeats. Our genetic analysis revealed that contractions occur during DNA replication, rather than by various DNA repair pathways. Repeats contract in the course of lagging-strand synthesis: The processivity subunit of DNA polymerase δ, Pol32, and the catalytic domain of Rev1, a translesion polymerase, act together in the same pathway to counteract contractions. Accumulation of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in the lagging-strand template greatly increases the probability that (GAA)n repeats contract, which in turn promotes repeat instability in rfa1, rad27, and dna2 mutants. Finally, by comparing contraction rates for homopurine-homopyrimidine repeats differing in their mirror symmetry, we found that contractions depend on a repeat’s triplex-forming ability. We propose that accumulation of ssDNA in the lagging-strand template fosters the formation of a triplex between the nascent and fold-back template strands of the repeat. Occasional jumps of DNA polymerase through this triplex hurdle, result in repeat contractions in the nascent lagging strand.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences



Khristich, A. N., J. F. Armenia, et al. (2020). “Large-scale contractions of Friedreich’s ataxia GAA repeats in yeast occur during DNA replication due to their triplex-forming ability.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117(3): 1628-1637.