Variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) loci typically exhibit high rates of germline mutations that alter allele length and thus are ideal models for examining processes governing repeat sequence instability. We have characterized by nucleotide sequencing the internal structure of the apolipoprotein B (Apo B) 3′ VNTR in a sample of same- and different-sized alleles previously associated with flanking marker haplotypes. Significant linkage disequilibrium between flanking polymorphisms and minisatellite alleles excludes unequal recombinatlon as the predominant mechanism of mutation at the Apo B VNTR and is consistent with intra-allelic mutational processes such as replication slippage and/or unequal sister chromatid exchange. Diversity among different length alleles was distinctly polar and was usually atiributable to changes in copy number at one particular repeat sequence. Analysis of predicted secondary structures for the dimeric repeats demonstrated a relationship between variability and the potential to form self-complementary intermediates. Preferential instability of the variable repeat: (i) was a function of its location within the tandem array; (ii) was not solely dependent on copy number; and (iii) may be related to the base composition of the VNTR and the degree of self-complementarity between the dimeric repeat sequences. The data suggest that polarized variability may be independent of the mutational process(es) generating length variation at minisatellite loci and suggest a possible alternative mechanism of mutation that involves the formation of secondary structures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology