Deletion errors generated during replication of CAG repeats

Nucleic Acids Res. 1999 Sep 1;27(17):3481-6. doi: 10.1093/nar/27.17.3481.


Triplet repeat sequence instability is associated with hereditary neurological diseases and with certain types of cancer. Here we study one form of this instability, deletion of triplet repeats during replication of template (CAG)(n)sequences by DNA polymerases. To monitor loss of triplet codons, we inserted (CAG)(9)and (CAG)(17)repeats into the lacZ sequence in M13mp2 and changed one repeat to a TAG codon to yield DNA substrates with colorless plaque phenotypes. Templates containing these inserts within gaps were copied and errors were scored as blue plaque Lac revertants whose DNA was sequenced to determine if loss of the TAG codon resulted from substitutions or deletions. DNA synthesis by either DNA polymerase beta or exonuclease-deficient T7 DNA polymerase produced deletions involving loss of from 1 to 8 of 9 or 15 of 17 repeats. Thus, these polymerases utilize misaligned template-primers containing from 3 to 45 extra template strand nucleotides. Deletion frequencies were much higher than substitution frequencies at the TAG codon in certain repeats, indicating that triplet repeats are at high risk for mutation in the absence of error correction. Proofreading-proficient T7 DNA polymerase generated deletions at 2- to 10-fold lower frequencies than did its exonuclease-deficient derivative. This suggests that misaligned triplet repeat sequences are subject to proofreading, but at reduced efficiency compared to editing of single-base mismatches.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Polymerase beta / metabolism
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Lac Operon / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Sequence Deletion*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics*


  • Thioredoxins
  • bacteriophage T7 induced DNA polymerase
  • DNA Polymerase beta
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase