Streamlining effects of extra telomeric repeat on telomere folding revealed by fluorescence-force spectroscopy

Jaba Mitra, Taekjip Ha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tandem repeats of guanine rich sequences are ubiquitous in the eukaryotic genome. For example, in the human cells, telomeres at the chromosomal ends comprise of kilobases repeats of T2AG3. Four such repeats can form G-quadruplexes (GQs). Biophysical studies have shown that GQs formed from four consecutive repeats possess high diversity both in their structure and in their response to tension. In principle, a GQ can form from any four repeats that may not even be consecutive. In order to investigate the dynamics of GQ possessing such positional multiplicity, we studied five and six repeats human telomeric sequence using single molecule FRET as well as its combination with optical tweezers. Our results suggest preferential formation of GQs at the 3’ end both in K+ and Na+ solutions although minority populations with a 5’ GQ or long-loop GQs were also observed. Using a vectorial folding assay which mimics the directional nature of telomere extension, we found that the 3’ preference holds even when folding is allowed to begin from the 5’ side. Interestingly, the unassociated T2AG3 segment has a streamlining effect in that one or two mechanically distinct species was observed at a single position instead of six or more observed without an unassociated repeat. Location of GQ on a long G-rich telomeric overhang and reduction in diversity of GQ conformations and mechanical responses through adjacent sequences have important implications in processes such as telomerase inhibition, alternative lengthening of telomeres, T-loop formation, telomere end protection and replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - May 27 2019


  • force-fluorescence spectroscopy
  • GQ
  • smFRET
  • telomeric repeats
  • vectorial folding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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