How sequence alterations enhance the stability and delay expansion of DNA triplet repeat domains

Jens Völker, Kenneth J. Breslauer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


DNA sequence alterations within DNA repeat domains inexplicably enhance the stability and delay the expansion of interrupted repeat domains. Here we propose mechanisms that rationalise such unanticipated outcomes. Specifically, we describe how interruption of a DNA repeat domain restricts the ensemble space available to dynamic, slip out, repeat bulge loops by introducing energetic barriers to loop migration. We explain how such barriers arise because some possible loop isomers result in energetically costly mismatches in the duplex portion of the repeat domain. We propose that the reduced ensemble space is the causative feature for the observed delay in repeat DNA expansion. We further posit that the observed loss of the interrupting repeat in some expanded DNAs reflects the transient occupation of loop isomer positions that result in a mismatch in the duplex stem due to 'leakiness' in the energy barrier. We propose that if the lifetime of such a low probability event allows for recognition by the mismatch repair system, then 'repair' of the repeat interruption can occur; thereby rationalising the absence of the interruption in the final expanded DNA 'product.' Our proposed mechanistic pathways provide reasoned explanations for what have been described as 'puzzling' observations, while also yielding insights into a biomedically important set of coupled genotypic phenomena that map the linkage between DNA origami thermodynamics and phenotypic disease states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere8
JournalQRB Discovery
StatePublished - Nov 6 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics


  • DNA conformational space
  • DNA expansion/contraction
  • repeat DNA origami
  • repeat mismatch repair
  • stability-functional correlations


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