Secondary binding sites for triplex-forming oligonucleotides containing bulges, loops, and mismatches in the third strand

K. Fox, E. Flashman, Darren Gowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have used DNase I footprinting to examine the binding of five different 17-mer oligonucleotides to a 53-base oligopurine tract containing four pyrimidine interruptions. Although all the expected triplexes formed with high affinity (Kd ≈ 10−50 nM), one oligonucleotide produced a footprint at a second site with about 20-fold lower affinity. We have explored the nature of this secondary binding site and suggest that it arises when each end of the third strand forms a 7-mer triplex with adjacent regions on the duplex, generating a contiguous 14-base triplex with a bulge in the center of the third strand oligonucleotide. This unusual binding mode was examined by use of oligonucleotides that were designed with the potential to form different length third-strand loops of various base composition. We find that triplexes containing single-base bulges are generally more stable than those with dinucleotide loops, though triplexes can be formed with loops of up to nine thymines, generating complexes with submicromolar dissociation constants. These structures are much more stable than those formed by adding two separate 7-mer oligonucleotides, which do not generate DNase I footprints, though a stable complex is generated when the two halves are covalently joined by a hexa(ethylene glycol) linker. MPE produces less clear footprints, presumably because this cleavage agent binds to triplex DNA, but confirms that the oligonucleotides can bind in unexpected places. These results suggest that extra care needs to be taken when designing long triplex-forming oligonucleotides so as to avoid triplex formation at shorter secondary sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6714-6725
Number of pages12
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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