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Trinucleotide repeat (TNR) expansion is responsible for numerous human neurodegenerative diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Recent studies have shown that DNA base excision repair (BER) can mediate TNR expansion and deletion by removing base lesions in different locations of a TNR tract, indicating that BER can promote or prevent TNR expansion in a damage location–dependent manner. In this study, we provide the first evidence that the repair of a DNA base lesion located in the loop region of a CAG repeat hairpin can remove the hairpin, attenuating repeat expansion. We found that an 8-oxoguanine located in the loop region of CAG hairpins of varying sizes was removed by OGG1 leaving an abasic site that was subsequently 5′-incised by AP endonuclease 1, introducing a single-strand breakage in the hairpin loop. This converted the hairpin into a double-flap intermediate with a 5′- and 3′-flap that was cleaved by flap endonuclease 1 and a 3′-5′ endonuclease Mus81/Eme1, resulting in complete or partial removal of the CAG hairpin. This further resulted in prevention and attenuation of repeat expansion. Our results demonstrate that TNR expansion can be prevented via BER in hairpin loops that is coupled with the removal of TNR hairpins.


(c) The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkt1372