Non-B DNA structure-induced genetic instability and evolution

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Jan;67(1):43-62. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0131-2. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


Repetitive DNA motifs are abundant in the genomes of various species and have the capacity to adopt non-canonical (i.e., non-B) DNA structures. Several non-B DNA structures, including cruciforms, slipped structures, triplexes, G-quadruplexes, and Z-DNA, have been shown to cause mutations, such as deletions, expansions, and translocations in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Their distributions in genomes are not random and often co-localize with sites of chromosomal breakage associated with genetic diseases. Current genome-wide sequence analyses suggest that the genomic instabilities induced by non-B DNA structure-forming sequences not only result in predisposition to disease, but also contribute to rapid evolutionary changes, particularly in genes associated with development and regulatory functions. In this review, we describe the occurrence of non-B DNA-forming sequences in various species, the classes of genes enriched in non-B DNA-forming sequences, and recent mechanistic studies on DNA structure-induced genomic instability to highlight their importance in genomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / chemistry
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / classification
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Cruciform / chemistry
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • DNA, Cruciform
  • DNA