Secondary structural choice of DNA and RNA associated with CGG/CCG trinucleotide repeat expansion rationalizes the RNA misprocessing in FXTAS
CGG tandem repeat expansion in the 5′-untranslated region of the fragile X mental retardation-1 (FMR1) gene leads to unusual nucleic acid conformations, hence causing genetic instabilities. We show that the number of G…G (in CGG repeat) or C…C (in CCG repeat) mismatches (other than A…T, T…A, C…G and G…C canonical base pairs) dictates the secondary structural choice of the sense and antisense strands of the FMR1 gene and their corresponding transcripts in fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). The circular dichroism (CD) spectra and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) reveal that CGG DNA (sense strand of the FMR1 gene) and its transcript favor a quadruplex structure. CD, EMSA and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations also show that more than four C…C mismatches cannot be accommodated in the RNA duplex consisting of the CCG repeat (antisense transcript); instead, it favors an i-motif conformational intermediate. Such a preference for unusual secondary structures provides a convincing justification for the RNA foci formation due to the sequestration of RNA-binding proteins to the bidirectional transcripts and the repeat-associated non-AUG translation that are observed in FXTAS. The results presented here also suggest that small molecule modulators that can destabilize FMR1 CGG DNA and RNA quadruplex structures could be promising candidates for treating FXTAS.
structure, DNA, RNA, Circular dichroism, FXTAS, EMSA