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Chromosomal localization of long trinucleotide repeats in the human genome by fluorescence in situ hybridization


Trinucleotide microsatellites are widespread in the human and other mammalian genomes1. Expansions of unstable trinucleotide repeats have been associated so far with a number of different genetic diseases including fragile X, myotonic dystrophy (DM) and Huntington disease2–5. While ten possible trinucleotides can occur at the DMA level, only CTG and CCG repeats are involved in the disorders described so far. However, the repeat expansion detection (RED) technique6 has identified additional large repeats of ATG, CCT, CTT, and TGG of potentially pathological significance in the human genome7. We now show that conclusive information about the chromosomal localization of long trinucleotide repeats can be achieved in a relatively short time using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with biotin-labelled trinucleotide polymers. Large CTG expansions (>1 kb) in DM and an unstable (CTG)306 repeat in a patient with schizophrenia were detected by eye through the microscope without electronic enhancement. Digital imaging was used to analyse the chromosomal distribution of long CCA and AGG repeats. Our results suggest that long trinucleotide repeats occur in the normal human genome and that the size of individual repeat loci may be polymorphic.

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