Expanded complexity of unstable repeat diseases

Biofactors. Mar-Apr 2013;39(2):164-75. doi: 10.1002/biof.1060. Epub 2012 Dec 11.


Unstable repeat diseases (URDs) share a common mutational phenomenon of changes in the copy number of short, tandemly repeated DNA sequences. More than 20 human neurological diseases are caused by instability, predominantly, expansion of microsatellite sequences. Changes in the repeat size initiate a cascade of pathological processes, frequently characteristic of a unique disease or a small subgroup of the URDs. Understanding of both the mechanism of repeat instability and molecular consequences of the repeat expansions is critical to developing successful therapies for these diseases. Recent technological breakthroughs in whole genome, transcriptome and proteome analyses will almost certainly lead to new discoveries regarding the mechanisms of repeat instability, the pathogenesis of URDs, and will facilitate development of novel therapeutic approaches. The aim of this review is to give a general overview of unstable repeats diseases, highlight the complexities of these diseases, and feature the emerging discoveries in the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease / ethnology*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genomic Instability / genetics
  • Humans
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences / genetics
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics*