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Biochemistry  2010;49(33):6992-6999.
Naturally occurring poly(purine·pyrimidine) rich regions in the human genome are prone to adopt non-canonical DNA structures such as intramolecular triplexes (i.e. H-DNA). Such structure-forming sequences are abundant and can regulate the expression of several diseases-linked genes. In addition, the use of triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) to modulate gene structure and function has potential as an approach to targeted gene therapy. Previously, we found that endogenous H-DNA structures can induce DNA double-strand breaks and promote genomic rearrangements. Herein, we find that the DHX9 helicase co-immunoprecipitates with triplex DNA structures in mammalian cells, suggesting a role in the maintenance of genome stability. We tested this postulate by assessing the helicase activity of purified human DHX9 on various duplex and triplex DNA substrates in vitro. DHX9 displaced the third strand from a specific triplex DNA structure and catalyzed the unwinding with a 3′→5′ polarity with respect to the displaced third strand. Helicase activity required a 3′-single-stranded overhang on the third strand and was dependent on ATP hydrolysis. The reaction kinetics consisted of a pre-steady-state burst phase followed by a linear, steady-state pseudo-zero-order-reaction. In contrast, very little, if any helicase activity was detected on blunt triplexes, triplexes with 5′-overhangs, blunt duplexes, duplexes with overhangs, or forked duplex substrates. Thus, triplex structures containing a 3′-overhang represent preferred substrates for DHX9, where it removes the strand with Hoogsteen hydrogen-bonded bases. Our results suggest the involvement of DHX9 in maintaining genome integrity by unwinding mutagenic triplex DNA structures.
PMCID: PMC2949957  PMID: 20669935
2.  Locations and contexts of sequences that hybridize to poly(dG-dT).(dC-dA) in mammalian ribosomal DNAs and two X-linked genes. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1988;16(3):865-881.
Sequences located several kilobases both 5' and 3' of the stably transcribed portion of several genes hybridize to radio-labeled pure fragments of the alternating sequence poly (dG-dT) (dC-dA) ["poly(GT)"]. The genes include the ribosomal DNA of mouse, rat, and human, and also human glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) and mouse hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (HPRT). HPRT has additional hybridizing sequences in introns. Fragments that include the hybridizing sequences and up to 300 bp of adjoining DNA show perfect runs of poly(GT) (greater than 30bp) in all but the human 5' region of rDNA, which shows a somewhat different alternating purine:pyrimidine sequence, poly(GTAT) (36bp). Within 150 bp of these sequences in various instances are found a number of other sequences reported to affect DNA conformation in model systems. Most marked is an enhancement of sequences matching at least 67% to the consensus binding sequence for topoisomerase II. Two to ten-fold less of such sequences were found in other sequenced portions of the nontranscribed spacer or in the transcribed portion of rDNA. The conservation of the locations of tracts of alternating purine:pyrimidine between evolutionarily diverse species is consistent with a possible functional role for these sequences.
PMCID: PMC334724  PMID: 3267216
3.  Triple helix formation by purine-rich oligonucleotides targeted to the human dihydrofolate reductase promoter. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1992;20(7):1777-1784.
The ability of oligodeoxynucleotides to form specific triple helical structures with critical regulatory sequences in the human dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) promoter was investigated. A battery of purine-rich oligonucleotides targeted to the two purine.pyrimidine strand biased regions near the DHFR transcription initiation site was developed. The stable triple helical structures formed by binding of the oligonucleotides to the native promoter double helix were dominated by G*G.C triplets, with interspersed C*C.G and A*A.T alignments. Mismatches between the oligonucleotide and the purine-rich strand of the target significantly destabilized third strand binding, and a G*A.T alignment was particularly unfavorable. Formation of a pur.pur.pyr triple helical structure results in a localized limitation of access to the native double helical DNA and produces sequence dependent conformational alterations extending several nucleotides beyond the triplex-duplex boundary. Although they differ only by the insertion of two A.T base pairs, the distal and proximal purine.pyrimidine regions can be targeted individually due to the high degree of sequence specificity of triple helical alignment. Triplex formation overlapping any of three consensus transcriptional regulatory elements and collectively covering 50% of the DHFR core promoter is now possible with this set of oligonucleotides.
PMCID: PMC312270  PMID: 1579471
4.  Antiparallel polypurine phosphorothioate oligonucleotides form stable triplexes with the rat alpha1(I) collagen gene promoter and inhibit transcription in cultured rat fibroblasts. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(11):2182-2188.
The rat alpha1(I) collagen promoter contains a unique polypurine-polypyrimidine sequence between -141 and -200 upstream of the transcription start site. The polypurine sequence from -171 to -200 (C2) is on the coding strand and the adjacent polypurine sequence from -141 to -170 (C1) is on the non-coding strand. Earlier we demonstrated triplex formation with a polypurine 30 nt parallel triplex-forming oligonucleotide (TFO) corresponding to C1 and inhibition of transcriptional activity of the rat alpha1(I) collagen promoter. In the present work we have tested triplex-forming abilities of shorter (18 nt) purine and pyrimidine TFOs in parallel and antiparallel orientation to the C1 purine sequence. Our results show that purine antiparallel TFOs formed triplexes with the highest binding affinities, while pyrimidine oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ODNs) did not show appreciable binding. Phosphorothioate modification of purine TFOs did not significantly reduce binding affinity. We also demonstrate that preformed triplexes are quite stable when precipitated with ethanol and resuspended in water. Further analysis was carried out using two purine phosphorothioate antiparallel TFOs, 158 APS and 164 APS, designed to bind to the promoter region from -141 to -158 and -147 to -164, respectively, which were found to form triplexes even under physiological conditions. DNase I footprinting experiments showed the ability of these TFOs to protect target sequences in the promoter region; both purine sequences (C1 and C2) were protected in the case of 158 APS. Transfection experiments using preformed triplexes with a reporter plasmid containing the collagen promoter sequence showed significant inhibition of transcription when compared with a control phosphorothioate ODN. The effect of 164 APS was greater than that of 158 APS. These results indicate that this triplex strategy could be used in the down-regulation of collagen synthesis in cultured cells and offer the potential to control fibrosis in vivo.
PMCID: PMC146703  PMID: 9153319
5.  Triplex formation inhibits HER-2/neu transcription in vitro. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1993;92(5):2433-2439.
Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) have been shown to bind to target DNA sequences in several human gene promoters such as the c-myc oncogene, the epidermal growth factor receptor, and the dihydrofolate reductase genes. TFOs have been shown to inhibit transcription in vitro and gene expression in cell culture of the c-myc and other genes. The HER-2/neu oncogene, which is overexpressed in breast cancer and other human malignancies, contains a purine-rich sequence in its promoter, which is favorable for purine:purine:pyrimidine (R:R:Y) triplex formation. Although its function in the HER-2/neu promoter is unknown, this purine-rich site is homologous to a protein-binding sequence in the promoter of the epidermal growth factor receptor that is necessary for efficient transcription of this gene. We have shown that this sequence is a site for nuclear protein binding by incubation with a crude nuclear extract. We describe the formation of an interstrand triplex using a purine-rich oligonucleotide antiparallel to this purine-rich target sequence of the HER-2/neu promoter. Triplex formation by the oligonucleotide prevents protein binding to the target site in the HER-2/neu promoter in vitro. We have shown that this oligonucleotide is a potent and specific inhibitor of HER-2/neu transcription in an in vitro assay. The triplex target site contains a single pyrimidine base that does not conform to the R:R:Y triplex motif. In an attempt to abrogate the potentially destabilizing effects of this pyrimidine base on triplex formation, we have substituted an abasic linker for the pyrimidine residue in the triplex forming oligonucleotide. Triplex formation with the modified oligonucleotide appears to occur with approximately equivalent binding affinity. Triplex formation in the HER-2/neu oncogene promoter prevents transcription in vitro and may represent a future modality for specific inhibition of this gene in vivo.
PMCID: PMC288427  PMID: 7901237
6.  Inhibition of the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene transfection in Ltk- cells by potential Z-DNA forming polymers. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1985;13(14):5111-5126.
It has been demonstrated that certain alternating purine and pyrimidine sequences may assume a left-handed Z-DNA conformation. In order to evaluate the possibility that Z-DNA is involved in the modulation of gene expression, we examined the ability of various synthetic DNA polymers to affect the transfection of herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSVtk) gene in Ltk- cells using the DNA-calcium phosphate cotransfection technique. We found that potential Z-DNA forming polymers such as, poly(dG-m5dC) X poly(dG-m5dC) and poly(dG-dC) X poly(dG-dC), cotransfected with the tk gene decreased the level of Tk+ transformed colonies. In contrast, cotransfection of the tk gene with polymers which do not assume Z-conformation such as, poly(dG) X poly(dC) or poly(dA-dT) X poly(dA-dT) showed no effect on the number of colonies formed. About 50% inhibition of the Tk+ colony formation was obtained by 0.4 micrograms of poly(dG-m5dC) X poly(dG-m5dC), or by 2 micrograms of poly(dG-dC) X poly(dG-dC). DNA uptake into Ltk- cells was not significantly affected by any of these polymers. Approximately 20-42 base pairs (bp) long alternating dG-dC sequence linked at either the 5'-end or 3'-end of tk gene were cloned into plasmids. These recombinant plasmids, however, showed no remarkable effect upon the transfection of Ltk- cells. The DNAs of Tk+ colonies obtained by transfecting these recombinant plasmids were digested with BssH II and analyzed by Southern blotting. We demonstrated that the dG-dC sequences proximal to the tk gene were integrated into cellular DNA. All the presented results indicate that only larger polymers with the potential to assume a Z-DNA conformation may affect tk gene transfection either by inhibiting transcription or more probably by affecting the stable integration of the tk gene into the host chromosome.
PMCID: PMC321853  PMID: 2991854
7.  The high stability of the triple helices formed between short purine oligonucleotides and SIV/HIV-2 vpx genes is determined by the targeted DNA structure. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1995;23(19):3831-3836.
In our previous works we have shown that the oligonucleotides 5'-GGGGAGGGGGAGG-3' and 5'-GGAGGGGGAGGGG-3' give very stable and specific triplexes with their target double stranded DNAs [Svinarchuk, F., Bertrand, J.-R. and Malvy, C. (1994) Nucleic Acids Res., 22, 3742-3747; Svinarchuk, F., Paoletti, J. and Malvy, C. (1995) J. Biol. Chem., 270, 14 068-14,071]. The target for the invariable part of these oligonucleotides, 5'-GGAGGGGGAGG-3', is found in a highly conserved 20 bp long purine/pyrimidine tract of the vpx gene of the SIV and HIV-2 viruses and could be a target for oligonucleotide directed antivirus therapy. Here were report on the ability of four purine oligonucleotides with different lengths (11-, 14-, 17- and 20-mer) to form triplexes with the purine/pyrimidine stretch of the vpx gene. Triplex formation was tested by joint dimethyl sulfate (DMS) footprint, gel-retardation assay, circular dichroism (CD) and UV-melting studies. Dimethyl sulfate footprint studies revealed the antiparallel orientation of the third strand to the purine strand of the Watson-Crick duplex. However, the protection of the guanines at the ends of the target sequence decreased as the length of the third strand oligonucleotide increased. Melting temperature studies provided profiles with only one transition for all of the triplexes. The melting temperatures of the triplexes were found to be the same as for the targeted duplex in the case of the 11- and 14-mer third strands while for the 17- and 20-mer third strands the melting temperature of the triplexes were correspondingly 4 and 8 degrees C higher than for the duplex. Heating and cooling melting curves were reversible for all of the tested triplexes except one with the 20-mer third strand oligonucleotide. Circular dichroism spectra showed the ability of the target DNA to adopt an A-like DNA conformation. Upon triplex formation the A-DNA form becomes even more pronounced. This effect depends on the length of the third strand oligonucleotide: the CD spectrum shows a 'classical' A-DNA shape with the 20-mer. This is not observed with the purine/pyrimidine stretch of the HIV-1 DNA which keeps a B-like spectrum even after triplex formation. We suggest, that an A-like duplex DNA is required for the formation of a stable DNA purine(purine-pyrimidine) triplex.
PMCID: PMC307298  PMID: 7479024
8.  d(TG)n.d(CA)n sequences upstream of the rat prolactin gene form Z-DNA and inhibit gene transcription. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1990;18(6):1595-1601.
Two alternating purine-pyrimidine sequences of the d(TG)n.d(CA)n-type (170bp and 60 bp in length) lie upstream of the rat prolactin (rPRL) gene. Conformational studies of plasmids containing these sequences indicate that both form left-handed (Z) DNA, with transitions initiating at superhelical densities of -0.041 and -0.044 respectively. These alternating purine-pyrimidine (APP) sequences are hypersensitive to cleavage with S1 nuclease both at the boundaries and within these APP repeats, where there is a loss in APP alternation. We have investigated the function of one of these Z-DNA sequences in the regulation of rPRL transcription, by linking regions of the 5' flanking sequence of the rPRL gene to a reporter gene encoding chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT), and transferring these plasmids into GH3 pituitary tumour cell lines. The major conclusion from these studies is that the 170bp repeat exerts a negative effect on the transcription of the rPRL gene, and also down-regulates the expression of the fusion gene pRSVcat when cloned 50bp upstream of the Rous sarcoma virus promoter. However, despite its proximity to an estrogen response element in prolactin, this sequence does not affect the responsiveness of the rPRL gene to estrogen.
PMCID: PMC330531  PMID: 2158081
9.  Expression of the yeast PHR1 gene is induced by DNA-damaging agents. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1990;10(9):4630-4637.
The PHR1 gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae encodes a photolyase which repairs specifically and exclusively pyrimidine dimers, the most frequent lesions induced in DNA by far-UV radiation. We have asked whether expression of PHR1 is modulated in response to UV-induced DNA damage and to DNA-damaging agents that induce lesions structurally dissimilar to pyrimidine dimers. Using a PHR1-lacZ fusion gene in which expression of beta-galactosidase is regulated by PHR1 5' regulatory elements, we found that exposure of cells to 254-nm light, 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide, methyl methanesulfonate, and N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine induced synthesis of increased amounts of fusion protein. In contrast to these DNA-damaging agents, neither heat shock nor exposure to photoreactivating light elicited a response. Induction by far-UV radiation was evident both when the fusion gene was carried on a multicopy plasmid and when it replaced the endogenous chromosomal copy of PHR1, and it was accompanied by an increase in the steady-state concentration of PHR1-lacZ mRNA. Northern (RNA) blot analysis of PHR1 mRNA encoded by the chromosomal locus was consistent with either enhanced transcription of PHR1 after DNA damage or stabilization of the transcripts. Neither the intact PHR1 or RAD2 gene was required for induction. Comparison of the region of PHR1 implicated in regulation of its expression with other damage-inducible genes from yeast cells revealed a common conserved sequence that is present in the PHR1, RAD2, and RNR2 genes and is required for damage inducibility of the latter two genes. These sequences may constitute elements of a damage-responsive regulon in S. cerevisiae.
PMCID: PMC361052  PMID: 2117700
10.  The Highly Conserved, Coregulated SNO and SNZ Gene Families in Saccharomyces cerevisiae Respond to Nutrient Limitation 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(21):5718-5726.
SNZ1, a member of a highly conserved gene family, was first identified through studies of proteins synthesized in stationary-phase yeast cells. There are three SNZ genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, each of which has another highly conserved gene, named SNO (SNZ proximal open reading frame), upstream. The DNA sequences and relative positions of SNZ and SNO genes have been phylogenetically conserved. This report details studies of the expression of the SNZ-SNO gene pairs under various conditions and phenotypic analysis of snz-sno mutants. An analysis of total RNA was used to determine that adjacent SNZ-SNO gene pairs are coregulated. SNZ2/3 and SNO2/3 mRNAs are induced prior to the diauxic shift and decrease in abundance during the postdiauxic phase, when SNZ1 and SNO1 are induced. In snz2 snz3 mutants, SNZ1 mRNA is induced prior to the diauxic shift, when SNZ2/3 mRNAs are normally induced. Under nitrogen-limiting conditions, SNZ1 mRNAs accumulate in tryptophan, adenine, and uracil auxotrophs but not in prototrophic strains, indicating that induction occurs in response to the limitation of specific nutrients. Strains carrying deletions in all SNZ-SNO gene pairs are viable, but snz1 and sno1 mutants are sensitive to 6-azauracil (6-AU), an inhibitor of purine and pyrimidine biosynthetic enzymes, and methylene blue, a producer of singlet oxygen. The conservation of sequence and chromosomal position, the coregulation and pattern of expression of SNZ1 and SNO1 genes, and the sensitivity of snz1 and sno1 mutants to 6-AU support the hypothesis that the associated proteins are part of an ancient response to nutrient limitation.
PMCID: PMC107633  PMID: 9791124
11.  Mitochondrial-encoded membrane protein transcripts are pyrimidine-rich while soluble protein transcripts and ribosomal RNA are purine-rich 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:136.
Eukaryotic organisms contain mitochondria, organelles capable of producing large amounts of ATP by oxidative phosphorylation. Each cell contains many mitochondria with many copies of mitochondrial DNA in each organelle. The mitochondrial DNA encodes a small but functionally critical portion of the oxidative phosphorylation machinery, a few other species-specific proteins, and the rRNA and tRNA used for the translation of these transcripts. Because the microenvironment of the mitochondrion is unique, mitochondrial genes may be subject to different selectional pressures than those affecting nuclear genes.
From an analysis of the mitochondrial genomes of a wide range of eukaryotic species we show that there are three simple rules for the pyrimidine and purine abundances in mitochondrial DNA transcripts. Mitochondrial membrane protein transcripts are pyrimidine rich, rRNA transcripts are purine-rich and the soluble protein transcripts are purine-rich. The transitions between pyrimidine and purine-rich regions of the genomes are rapid and are easily visible on a pyrimidine-purine walk graph. These rules are followed, with few exceptions, independent of which strand encodes the gene. Despite the robustness of these rules across a diverse set of species, the magnitude of the differences between the pyrimidine and purine content is fairly small. Typically, the mitochondrial membrane protein transcripts have a pyrimidine richness of 56%, the rRNA transcripts are 55% purine, and the soluble protein transcripts are only 53% purine.
The pyrimidine richness of mitochondrial-encoded membrane protein transcripts is partly driven by U nucleotides in the second codon position in all species, which yields hydrophobic amino acids. The purine-richness of soluble protein transcripts is mainly driven by A nucleotides in the first codon position. The purine-richness of rRNA is also due to an abundance of A nucleotides. Possible mechanisms as to how these trends are maintained in mtDNA genomes of such diverse ancestry, size and variability of A-T richness are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1262711  PMID: 16185363
12.  Mutational analysis of the transcription start site of the yeast tRNA(Leu3) gene. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1995;23(15):2914-2918.
In addition to the well-known internal promoter elements of tRNA genes, 5' flanking sequences can also influence the efficiency of transcription by Saccharomyces cerevisiae extracts in vitro. A consensus sequence of yeast tRNA genes in the vicinity of the transcriptional start site can be derived. To determine whether the activity of this region can be attributed to particular sequence features we studied in vitro mutants of the start site region. We found that the start site can be shifted, but only to a limited extent, by moving the conserved sequence element. We found that both a pyrimidine-purine motif (with transcription initiating at the purine) and a small T:A base pair block upstream are important for efficient transcription in vitro. Thus the sequence surrounding the start site of transcription of the yeast tRNA(Leu3) gene does play a role in determining transcription efficiency and fixing the precise site of initiation by RNA polymerase III.
PMCID: PMC307130  PMID: 7659514
13.  Triplex-induced recombination and repair in the pyrimidine motif 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(11):3492-3502.
Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) bind DNA in a sequence-specific manner at polypurine/polypyrimidine sites and mediate targeted genome modification. Triplexes are formed by either pyrimidine TFOs, which bind parallel to the purine strand of the duplex (pyrimidine, parallel motif), or purine TFOs, which bind in an anti-parallel orientation (purine, anti-parallel motif). Both purine and pyrimidine TFOs, when linked to psoralen, have been shown to direct psoralen adduct formation in cells, leading to mutagenesis or recombination. However, only purine TFOs have been shown to mediate genome modification without the need for a targeted DNA-adduct. In this work, we report the ability of a series of pyrimidine TFOs, with selected chemical modifications, to induce repair and recombination in two distinct episomal targets in mammalian cells in the absence of any DNA-reactive conjugate. We find that TFOs containing N3′→P5′ phosphoramidate (amidate), 5-(1-propynyl)-2′-deoxyuridine (pdU), 2′-O-methyl-ribose (2′-O-Me), 2′-O-(2-aminoethyl)-ribose, or 2′-O, 4′-C-methylene bridged or locked nucleic acid (LNA)-modified nucleotides show substantially increased formation of non-covalent triplexes under physiological conditions compared with unmodified DNA TFOs. However, of these modified TFOs, only the amidate and pdU-modified TFOs mediate induced recombination in cells and stimulate repair in cell extracts, at levels comparable to those seen with purine TFOs in similar assays. These results show that amidate and pdU-modified TFOs can be used as reagents to stimulate site-specific gene targeting without the need for conjugation to DNA-reactive molecules. By demonstrating the potential for induced repair and recombination with appropriately modified pyrimidine TFOs, this work expands the options available for triplex-mediated gene targeting.
PMCID: PMC1151591  PMID: 15961731
14.  Misincorporation by AMV reverse transcriptase shows strong dependence on the combination of template and substrate nucleotides. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1986;14(17):6945-6964.
We have carried out a systematic investigation of the efficiency of misincorporation by Avian Myeloblastosis Virus reverse transcriptase with all possible combinations of dNTP substrate, template nucleotide, and the nucleotide at the 3' terminus of the primer. A series of synthetic oligonucleotide primers were annealed to single stranded M13 DNA templates, and a single dNTP was misincorporated at the primer 3' end using AMV reverse transcriptase. The proportion and pattern of misincorporation and incorporation in all 64 situations was assayed using [5'-32p] labelled primers, and the products were separated on denaturing polyacrylamide gels. Correct incorporations occurred more readily than misincorporations. The efficiency of misincorporation depended on the individual primer, but, comparing primers, a clear dependence on the template nucleotide was observed for the preferential misincorporation of different dNTPs. The exact combination of template and dNTP was important; although purine:pyrimidine (dNTP substrate:template nucleotide) and pyrimidine:purine misincorporations occurred comparatively readily, some pyrimidine:pyrimidine and purine:purine reactions were equally efficient and yet others were never seen to occur. Some misincorporations were facilitated by subsequent correct incorporations, but despite this our results suggest that the level of misincorporation is limited by the rate of reaction and enzyme inactivation rather than by exonuclease activity.
PMCID: PMC311710  PMID: 2429257
15.  Complexes formed by (pyrimidine)n . (purine)n DNAs on lowering the pH are three-stranded. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1979;6(9):3073-3091.
(Pyrimidine)n . (purine)n DNAs of repeating sequences form a distinctive complex on lowering the pH below 6. Previously this complex was thought to be tetra-stranded. The present work is inconsistent with this view, and four lines of evidence show that the complex consists of a triplex together with a poly d(purine) possessing secondary structure. Formula: (see text). (a) S1 nuclease digestion leads to degradation of 50% of the poly d(purine) content of the pH 5-induced complex. (b) Buoyant density studies demonstrate that there is no interaction between the triplex and added free poly d(purine) and also that the complex formed from duplex DNA contained poly d(purine) which is free to form a triplex on addition of an appropriate poly d(pyrimidine) in the correct stoichiometry. (c) The hyperchromic shifts of the triplex and poly d(purine), upon melting, are mutually independent. (d) The circular dichroism spectrum of the complex is simply the weighted average of a triplex together with a free poly d(purine). The triplexes have tm's approximately 20 degrees higher than the corresponding duplexes under comparable conditions and they are extremely resistant to various deoxyribonucleases; properties which may prove useful for their isolation from natural sources.
PMCID: PMC327918  PMID: 40208
16.  Poly(pyrimidine) . poly(purine) synthetic DNAs containing 5-methylcytosine form stable triplexes at neutral pH. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1984;12(16):6603-6614.
Poly(pyrimidine) . poly(purine) tracts have been discovered in the 5'-flanking regions of many eucaryotic genes. They may be involved in the regulation of expression since they can be mapped to the nuclease-sensitive sites of active chromatin. We have found that poly(pyrimidine) . poly(purine) DNAs which contain 5-methylcytosine (e.g. poly[d(Tm5C)] . poly[d(GA)]) will form a triplex at a pH below 8. In contrast, the unmethylated analogue, poly[d(TC)] . poly[d(GA)] only forms a triplex at pHs below 6. Synthetic DNAs containing repeating trinucleotides and poly[d(Um5C)] . poly[d(GA)] behave in a similar manner. Thus the stability of a triplex can be controlled by methylation of cytosine. This suggests a model for the regulation of expression based upon specific triplex formation on the 5'-side of eucaryotic genes.
PMCID: PMC320099  PMID: 6473110
17.  DNA Bending Propensity in the Presence of Base Mismatches: Implications for DNA Repair 
The journal of physical chemistry. B  2013;117(20):6194-6205.
DNA bending is believed to facilitate the initial recognition of the mismatched base for repair. The repair efficiencies are dependent on both the mismatch type and neighboring nucleotide sequence. We have studied bending of several DNA duplexes containing canonical matches: A:T, G:C, various mismatches: A:A, A:C, G:A, G:G, G:T, C:C, C:T, T:T, and a bis-abasic site: X:X. Free energy profiles were generated for DNA bending using umbrella sampling. The highest energetic cost associated with DNA bending is observed for canonical matches while bending free energies are lower in the presence of mismatches, with the lowest value for the abasic site. In all of the sequences, DNA duplexes bend towards the major groove with widening of the minor groove. For homoduplexes, DNA bending is observed to occur via smooth deformations, whereas for heteroduplexes, kinks are observed at the mismatch site during strong bending. In general, pyrimidine:pyrimidine mismatches are the most destabilizing, while purine:purine mismatches lead to intermediate destabilization and purine:pyrimidine mismatches are the least destabilizing. The ease of bending is partially correlated with the binding affinity of MutS to the mismatch pairs and subsequent repair efficiencies, indicating that intrinsic DNA bending propensities are a key factor of mismatch recognition.
PMCID: PMC3676302  PMID: 23621762
Umbrella sampling; free energy; mismatch recognition; DNA repair
18.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae URH1 (Encoding Uridine-Cytidine N-Ribohydrolase): Functional Complementation by a Nucleoside Hydrolase from a Protozoan Parasite and by a Mammalian Uridine Phosphorylase 
Nucleoside hydrolases catalyze the cleavage of N-glycosidic bonds in nucleosides, yielding ribose and the respective bases. While nucleoside hydrolase activity has not been detected in mammalian cells, many protozoan parasites rely on nucleoside hydrolase activity for salvage of purines and/or pyrimidines from their hosts. In contrast, uridine phosphorylase is the key enzyme of pyrimidine salvage in mammalian hosts and many other organisms. We show here that the open reading frame (ORF) YDR400w of Saccharomyces cerevisiae carries the gene encoding uridine hydrolase (URH1). Disruption of this gene in a conditionally pyrimidine-auxotrophic S. cerevisiae strain, which is also deficient in uridine kinase (urk1), leads to the inability of the mutant to utilize uridine as the sole source of pyrimidines. Protein extracts of strains overexpressing YDR400w show increased hydrolase activity only with uridine and cytidine, but no activity with inosine, adenosine, guanosine, and thymidine as substrates, demonstrating that ORF YDR400w encodes a uridine-cytidine N-ribohydrolase. Expression of a homologous cDNA from a protozoan parasite (Crithidia fasciculata) in a ura3 urk1 urh1 mutant is sufficient to restore growth on uridine. Growth can also be restored by expression of a human uridine phosphorylase cDNA. Yeast strains expressing protozoan N-ribohydrolases or host phosphorylases could therefore become useful tools in drug screens for specific inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC123776  PMID: 11872485
19.  Competitive and cooperative functioning of the anterior and posterior promoter elements of an Alu family repeat. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1986;6(6):2041-2052.
Similar to tRNA genes and the VAI gene, the Alu family repeats are transcribed by RNA polymerase III and contain a split intragenic promoter. Results of our previous studies have shown that when the anterior, box A-containing promoter element (5'-Pu-Pu-Py-N-N-Pu-Pu-Py-G-G-3' in which Pu is any purine, Py is any pyrimidine, and N is any nucleotide) of a human Alu family repeat is deleted, the remaining box B-containing promoter element (5'-G-A/T-T-C-Pu-A-N-N-C-3') is still capable of directing weak transcriptional initiation at approximately 70 base pairs (bp) upstream from the box B sequence. This is different from the tRNA genes in which the box A-containing promoter element plays the major role in the positioning of the transcriptional initiation site(s). To account for this difference, we first carried out competition experiments in which we show that the posterior element of the Alu repeat competes with the VAI gene effectively for the transcription factor C in HeLa cell extracts. We then constructed a series of contraction and expansion mutants of the Alu repeat promoter in which the spacing between boxes A and B was systematically varied by molecular cloning. In vitro transcription of these clones in HeLa cell extracts was analyzed by RNA gel electrophoresis and primer extension mapping. We show that when the box A and box B promoter sequences are separated by 47 to 298 bp, the transcriptional initiation sites remain 4 to 5 bp upstream from box A. However, this positioning function by the box A-containing promoter element was lost when the spacing was shortened to only 26 bp or increased to longer than 600 bp. Instead, transcriptional initiation occurred approximately 70 bp upstream from box B, similar to that in the clones containing only the box B promoter element. All the mutant clones were transcribed less efficiently than was the wild type. An increase in the distance between boxes A and B also activated a second box A-like element within the Alu family repeat. We compare these results with the results of tRNA gene studies. We also discuss this comparison in terms of the positioning function of the split class III promoter elements and the evolutionary conservation of the spacing between the two promoter elements for optimum transcriptional efficiency.
PMCID: PMC367744  PMID: 3023916
20.  Functional Conservation of Nucleosome Formation Selectively Biases Presumably Neutral Molecular Variation in Yeast Genomes 
One prominent pattern of mutational frequency, long appreciated in comparative genomics, is the bias of purine/pyrimidine conserving substitutions (transitions) over purine/pyrimidine altering substitutions (transversions). Traditionally, this transitional bias has been thought to be driven by the underlying rates of DNA mutation and/or repair. However, recent sequencing studies of mutation accumulation lines in model organisms demonstrate that substitutions generally do not accumulate at rates that would indicate a transitional bias. These observations have called into question a very basic assumption of molecular evolution; that naturally occurring patterns of molecular variation in noncoding regions accurately reflect the underlying processes of randomly accumulating neutral mutation in nuclear genomes. Here, in Saccharomyces yeasts, we report a very strong inverse association (r = −0.951, P < 0.004) between the genome-wide frequency of substitutions and their average energetic effect on nucleosome formation, as predicted by a structurally based energy model of DNA deformation around the nucleosome core. We find that transitions occurring at sites positioned nearest the nucleosome surface, which are believed to function most importantly in nucleosome formation, alter the deformation energy of DNA to the nucleosome core by only a fraction of the energy changes typical of most transversions. When we examined the same substitutions set against random background sequences as well as an existing study reporting substitutions arising in mutation accumulation lines of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we failed to find a similar relationship. These results support the idea that natural selection acting to functionally conserve chromatin organization may contribute significantly to genome-wide transitional bias, even in noncoding regions. Because nucleosome core structure is highly conserved across eukaryotes, our observations may also help to further explain locally elevated transition bias at CpG islands, which are known to destabilize nucleosomes at vertebrate promoters.
PMCID: PMC3014273  PMID: 21135411
nucleosome; chromatin; evolution; selection; gene regulation; transition bias
21.  The integral divalent cation within the intermolecular purine*purine. pyrimidine structure: a variable determinant of the potential for and characteristics of the triple helical association. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1999;27(2):695-702.
In vitro assembly of an intermolecular purine*purine.pyrimidine triple helix requires the presence of a divalent cation. The relationships between cation coordination and triplex assembly were investigated, and we have obtained new evidence for at least three functionally distinct potential modes of divalent cation coordination. (i) The positive influence of the divalent cation on the affinity of the third strand for its specific target correlates with affinity of the cation for coordination to phosphate. (ii) Once assembled, the integrity of the triple helical structure remains dependent upon its divalent cation component. A mode of heterocyclic coordination/chelation is favorable to triplex formation by decreasing the relative tendency for efflux of integral cations from within the triple helical structure. (iii) There is also a detrimental mode of base coordination through which a divalent cation may actively antagonize triplex assembly, even in the presence of other supportive divalent cations. These results demonstrate the considerable impact of the cationic component, and suggest ways in which the triple helical association might be positively or negatively modulated.
PMCID: PMC148234  PMID: 9862999
22.  Translation of the yeast transcriptional activator GCN4 is stimulated by purine limitation: implications for activation of the protein kinase GCN2. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1993;13(8):5099-5111.
The transcriptional activator protein GCN4 is responsible for increased transcription of more than 30 different amino acid biosynthetic genes in response to starvation for a single amino acid. This induction depends on increased expression of GCN4 at the translational level. We show that starvation for purines also stimulates GCN4 translation by the same mechanism that operates in amino acid-starved cells, being dependent on short upstream open reading frames in the GCN4 mRNA leader, the phosphorylation site in the alpha subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF-2 alpha), the protein kinase GCN2, and translational activators of GCN4 encoded by GCN1 and GCN3. Biochemical experiments show that eIF-2 alpha is phosphorylated in response to purine starvation and that this reaction is completely dependent on GCN2. As expected, derepression of GCN4 in purine-starved cells leads to a substantial increase in HIS4 expression, one of the targets of GCN4 transcriptional activation. gcn mutants that are defective for derepression of amino acid biosynthetic enzymes also exhibit sensitivity to inhibitors of purine biosynthesis, suggesting that derepression of GCN4 is required for maximal expression of one or more purine biosynthetic genes under conditions of purine limitation. Analysis of mRNAs produced from the ADE4, ADE5,7, ADE8, and ADE1 genes indicates that GCN4 stimulates the expression of these genes under conditions of histidine starvation, and it appeared that ADE8 mRNA was also derepressed by GCN4 in purine-starved cells. Our results indicate that the general control response is more global than was previously imagined in terms of the type of nutrient starvation that elicits derepression of GCN4 as well as the range of target genes that depend on GCN4 for transcriptional activation.
PMCID: PMC360163  PMID: 8336737
23.  Cloning of the PYR3 gene of Ustilago maydis and its use in DNA transformation. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1988;8(12):5417-5424.
The Ustilago maydis PYR3 gene encoding dihydroorotase activity was cloned by direct complementation of Escherichia coli pyrC mutations. PYR3 transformants of E. coli pyrC mutants expressed homologous transcripts of a variety of sizes and regained dihydroorotase activity. PYR3 also complemented Saccharomyces cerevisiae ura4 mutations, and again multiple transcripts were expressed in transformants, and enzyme activity was regained. A 1.25-kilobase poly(rA)+ PYR3 transcript was detected in U. maydis itself. Linear DNA carrying the PYR3 gene transformed a U. maydis pyr3-1 pyrimidine auxotroph to prototrophy. Hybridization analysis revealed that three different types of transformants could be generated, depending on the structure of the transforming DNA used. The first type involved exchange of chromosomal mutant gene sequences with the cloned wild-type plasmid sequences. A second type had integrated linear transforming DNA at the chromosomal PYR3 locus, probably via a single crossover event. The third type had integrated transforming DNA sequences at multiple sites in the U. maydis genome. In the last two types, tandemly reiterated copies of the transforming DNA were found to have been integrated. All three types had lost the sensitivity of the parental pyr3-1 mutant to UV irradiation. They had also regained dihydroorotase activity, although its level did not correlate with the PYR3 gene copy number.
PMCID: PMC365644  PMID: 2907604
24.  Functional characterization of a pyrimidine-rich element in the 5'-noncoding region of the yeast iso-1-cytochrome c gene. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1988;8(3):1045-1054.
A predominantly pyrimidine-rich sequence (purine in the template strand, 32 of 37 bases) is located between a functional TATA element and the corresponding transcription start site region of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae iso-1-cytochrome c (CYC1) gene. By using linker deletions and gene fusion techniques, the functional characteristics of this pyrimidine sequence were examined. Results indicate that the function of this element is to limit the accumulation of full-length mRNAs with 5' ends which map upstream of the pyrimidine-rich sequence. Data suggest that the 5'-noncoding region of the CYC1 gene possesses signals for mRNA 3'-end processing.
PMCID: PMC363247  PMID: 2835656
25.  Tripartite upstream promoter element essential for expression of Saccharomyces cerevisiae ribosomal protein genes. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1986;6(2):674-687.
To initiate a genetic analysis of yeast ribosomal protein gene promoters, we have constructed a gene fusion between the yeast ribosomal protein gene RP39A and the Escherichia coli lacZ gene. This gene fusion contains approximately 1,030 nucleotides of the 5' flanking region and the first 49 1/3 codons of RP39A fused in frame to a large 3' end fragment of lacZ. Whether it is introduced into yeast cells on a moderately high-copy-number plasmid, or integrated into the yeast genome at the RP39A locus, this RP39A-lacZ gene directs the synthesis of a hybrid transcript which encodes beta-galactosidase activity. Deletions in the 5' flanking region of RP39A-lacZ were constructed by linker insertion and BAL 31 mutagenesis. The expression of the mutant genes in yeast cells was assayed by measuring RP39A-lacZ mRNA and beta-galactosidase levels. By these means we have shown that the sequences between nucleotides -256 and -170 upstream of RP39A are essential for expression of this gene. Three sequence motifs, HOMOL1, RPG, and a T-rich region, which were found in that order 5'----3' upstream of most yeast ribosomal protein genes, were present within this interval. We found that substitution of the CYC1-lacZ upstream activation site with the fragment from nucleotides -298 to -172 upstream of RP39A, containing the HOMOL1-RPG-T-rich motif in that 5'----3' orientation, fully restored expression of the CYC1-lacZ gene. The essentially of HOMOL1, the RPG sequence, and the T-rich region for wild-type levels of expression of RP39A, the conserved location and order of these sequence motifs in yeast ribosomal protein genes, and the ability of a DNA fragment carrying these three sequence elements to substitute for the upstream activation site regions of CYC1 indicate that these three oligonucleotides may be essential to the transcription of yeast ribosomal protein genes.
PMCID: PMC367559  PMID: 3023862

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