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Transcription-Associated R-Loop Formation across the Human FMR1 CGG-Repeat Region


Expansion of a trinucleotide (CGG) repeat element within the 5' untranslated region (5'UTR) of the human FMR1 gene is responsible for a number of heritable disorders operating through distinct pathogenic mechanisms: gene silencing for fragile X syndrome (>200 CGG) and RNA toxic gain-of-function for FXTAS (∼ 55-200 CGG). Existing models have focused almost exclusively on post-transcriptional mechanisms, but co-transcriptional processes could also contribute to the molecular dysfunction of FMR1. We have observed that transcription through the GC-rich FMR1 5'UTR region favors R-loop formation, with the nascent (G-rich) RNA forming a stable RNA:DNA hybrid with the template DNA strand, thereby displacing the non-template DNA strand. Using DNA:RNA (hybrid) immunoprecipitation (DRIP) of genomic DNA from cultured human dermal fibroblasts with both normal (∼ 30 CGG repeats) and premutation (55

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