Non-B DNA structure-induced genetic instability

Mutat Res. 2006 Jun 25;598(1-2):103-19. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2006.01.019. Epub 2006 Mar 3.


Repetitive DNA sequences are abundant in eukaryotic genomes, and many of these sequences have the potential to adopt non-B DNA conformations. Genes harboring non-B DNA structure-forming sequences increase the risk of genetic instability and thus are associated with human diseases. In this review, we discuss putative mechanisms responsible for genetic instability events occurring at these non-B DNA structures, with a focus on hairpins, left-handed Z-DNA, and intramolecular triplexes or H-DNA. Slippage and misalignment are the most common events leading to DNA structure-induced mutagenesis. However, a number of other mechanisms of genetic instability have been proposed based on the finding that these structures not only induce expansions and deletions, but can also induce DNA strand breaks and rearrangements. The available data implicate a variety of proteins, such as mismatch repair proteins, nucleotide excision repair proteins, topoisomerases, and structure specific-nucleases in the processing of these mutagenic DNA structures. The potential mechanisms of genetic instability induced by these structures and their contribution to human diseases are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid


  • DNA