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Base excision repair (BER) of an oxidized base within a trinucleotide repeat (TNR) tract can lead to TNR expansions that are associated with over 40 human neurodegenerative diseases. This occurs as a result of DNA secondary structures such as hairpins formed during repair. We have previously shown that BER in a TNR hairpin loop can lead to removal of the hairpin, attenuating or preventing TNR expansions. Here, we further provide the first evidence that AP endonuclease 1 (APE1) prevented TNR expansions via its 3′-5′ exonuclease activity and stimulatory effect on DNA ligation during BER in a hairpin loop. Coordinating with flap endonuclease 1, the APE1 3′-5′ exonuclease activity cleaves the annealed upstream 3′-flap of a double-flap intermediate resulting from 5′-incision of an abasic site in the hairpin loop. Furthermore, APE1 stimulated DNA ligase I to resolve a long double-flap intermediate, thereby promoting hairpin removal and preventing TNR expansions.


(c) The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv530