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Mini- and Microsatellites

Claes Ramel
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 105, Supplement 4 (Jun., 1997), pp. 781-789
DOI: 10.2307/3433284
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3433284
Page Count: 9
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Mini- and Microsatellites
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Abstract

While the faithful transmission of genetic information requires a fidelity and stability of DNA that is involved in translation into proteins, it has become evident that a large part of noncoding DNA is organized in repeated sequences, which often exhibit a pronounced instability and dynamics. This applies both to longer repeated sequences, minisatellites (about 10-100 base pairs), and microsatellites (mostly 2-4 base pairs). Although these satellite DNAs are abundantly distributed in all kinds of organisms, no clear function has been discerned for them. However, extension of trinucleotide microsatellite sequences has been associated with several severe human disorders, such as Fragile X syndrome and Huntington's disease. Rare alleles of a minisatellite sequence have been reported to be associated with the ras oncogene leading to an increased risk for several human cancers. A dynamic behavior of repeated DNA sequences also applies to telomeres, constituting the ends of the chromosomes. Repeated DNA sequences protect the chromosome ends from losing coding sequences at cell divisions. The telomeres are maintained by the enzyme telomerase. Somatic cells, however, lose telomerase function and gradually die. Cancer cells have activated telomerase and therefore they acquire immortality.

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