Role of DNA secondary structures in fragile site breakage along human chromosome 10

Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Apr 1;22(7):1443-56. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds561. Epub 2013 Jan 7.


The formation of alternative DNA secondary structures can result in DNA breakage leading to cancer and other diseases. Chromosomal fragile sites, which are regions of the genome that exhibit chromosomal breakage under conditions of mild replication stress, are predicted to form stable DNA secondary structures. DNA breakage at fragile sites is associated with regions that are deleted, amplified or rearranged in cancer. Despite the correlation, unbiased examination of the ability to form secondary structures has not been evaluated in fragile sites. Here, using the Mfold program, we predict potential DNA secondary structure formation on the human chromosome 10 sequence, and utilize this analysis to compare fragile and non-fragile DNA. We found that aphidicolin (APH)-induced common fragile sites contain more sequence segments with potential high secondary structure-forming ability, and these segments clustered more densely than those in non-fragile DNA. Additionally, using a threshold of secondary structure-forming ability, we refined legitimate fragile sites within the cytogenetically defined boundaries, and identified potential fragile regions within non-fragile DNA. In vitro detection of alternative DNA structure formation and a DNA breakage cell assay were used to validate the computational predictions. Many of the regions identified by our analysis coincide with genes mutated in various diseases and regions of copy number alteration in cancer. This study supports the role of DNA secondary structures in common fragile site instability, provides a systematic method for their identification and suggests a mechanism by which DNA secondary structures can lead to human disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Fragile Sites*
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 10 / genetics*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Cleavage
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Thermodynamics


  • DNA