Formation of DNA Triple Helices Inhibits DNA Unwinding by the SV40 Large T-Antigen Helicase

Mor Peleg, Vered Kopel, James A. Borowiec and Haim Manor


Previous studies have indicated that d(TC)n.d(GA)n microsatellites may serve as arrest signals for mamalian DNA replication through the ability of such sequences to form DNA triple helices and thereby inhibit replication enzymes. To further test this hypothesis, we examined the ability of d(TC)i.d(GA)i.d(TC)i triplexes to inhibit DNA unwinding in vitro by a model eukaryotic DNA helicase, the SV40 large T-antigen. DNA substrates that were able to form triplexes, as assayed by endonuclease S1 and osmium tetroxide footprinting, significantly inhibited DNA unwinding by T-antigen. Strong inhibition was observed not only at acidic pH values, in which the triplexes were most stable, but also at physoilogical pH values in the range 6.9-7.2. Little or no inhibition was detected at pH 8.7. Based on these results, and on previous studies of DNA polymerases, we suggest that DNA triplexes may form in vivo and cause replication arrest through a dual inhibition of duplex unwinding by DNA helicases and of nazcent strand synthesis by DNA polymerases. DNA triplexes also hjave the potential to inhibit recombination and repair processes in which helicases and polymerases are involved.