Chromosome fragility and the abnormal replication of theFMR1locus in fragile X syndrome

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Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is a learning disability seen in individuals who have >200 CGG•CCG repeats in the 5′ untranslated region of the X-linkedFMR1gene. Such alleles are associated with a fragile site, FRAXA, a gap or constriction in the chromosome that is coincident with the repeat and is induced by folate stress or thymidylate synthase inhibitors like fluorodeoxyuridine (FdU). The molecular basis of the chromosome fragility is unknown. Previous work has suggested that the stable intrastrand structures formed by the repeat may be responsible, perhaps via their ability to block DNA synthesis. We have examined the replication dynamics of normal and FXS cells with and without FdU. We show here that an intrinsic problem with DNA replication exists in theFMR1gene of individuals with FXS even in the absence of FdU. Our data suggest a model for chromosome fragility in FXS in which the repeat impairs replication from an origin of replication (ORI) immediately adjacent to the repeat. The fact that the replication problem occurs even in the absence of FdU suggests that this phenomenon may havein vivoconsequences, including perhaps accounting for the loss of the X chromosome containing the fragile site that causes Turner syndrome (45, X0) in female carriers of such alleles. Our data on FRAXA may also be germane for the other FdU-inducible fragile sites in humans, that we show here share many common features with FRAXA.

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