Recent research indicates that hundreds of thousands of G-rich sequences within the human genome have the potential to form secondary structures known as G-quadruplexes. Telomeric regions, consisting of long arrays of TTAGGG/AATCCC repeats, are among the most likely areas in which these structures might form. Since G-quadruplexes assemble from certain G-rich single-stranded sequences, they might arise when duplex DNA is unwound such as during replication. Coincidentally, these bulky structures when present in the DNA template might also hinder the action of DNA polymerases. In this study, single-stranded telomeric templates with the potential to form G-quadruplexes were examined for their effects on a variety of replicative and translesion DNA polymerases from humans and lower organisms. Our results demonstrate that single-stranded templates containing four telomeric GGG runs fold into intramolecular G-quadruplex structures. These intramolecular G quadruplexes are somewhat dynamic in nature and stabilized by increasing KCl concentrations and decreasing temperatures. Furthermore, the presence of these intramolecular G-quadruplexes in the template dramatically inhibits DNA synthesis by various DNA polymerases, including the human polymerase δ employed during lagging strand replication of G-rich telomeric strands and several human translesion DNA polymerases potentially recruited to sites of replication blockage. Notably, misincorporation of nucleotides is observed when certain translesion polymerases are employed on substrates containing intramolecular G-quadruplexes, as is extension of the resulting mismatched base pairs upon dynamic unfolding of this secondary structure. These findings reveal the potential for blockage of DNA replication and genetic changes related to sequences capable of forming intramolecular G-quadruplexes.

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Published in PLoS ONE, v. 9, issue 1, no. e80664.

© 2014 Edwards et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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