Mature Microsatellites: Mechanisms Underlying Dinucleotide Microsatellite Mutational Biases in Human Cells
Dinucleotide microsatellites are dynamic DNA sequences that affect genome stability. Here, we focused on mature microsatellites, defined as pure repeats of lengths above the threshold and unlikely to mutate below it in a single mutational event. We investigated the prevalence and mutational behavior of these sequences by using human genome sequence data, human cells in culture, and purified DNA polymerases. Mature dinucleotides (≥10 units) are present within exonic sequences of >350 genes, resulting in vulnerability to cellular genetic integrity. Mature dinucleotide mutagenesis was examined experimentally using ex vivo and in vitro approaches. We observe an expansion bias for dinucleotide microsatellites up to 20 units in length in somatic human cells, in agreement with previous computational analyses of germ-line biases. Using purified DNA polymerases and human cell lines deficient for mismatch repair (MMR), we show that the expansion bias is caused by functional MMR and is not due to DNA polymerase error biases. Specifically, we observe that the MutSα and MutLα complexes protect against expansion mutations. Our data support a model wherein different MMR complexes shift the balance of mutations toward deletion or expansion. Finally, we show that replication fork progression is stalled within long dinucleotides, suggesting that mutational mechanisms within long repeats may be distinct from shorter lengths, depending on the biochemistry of fork resolution. Our work combines computational and experimental approaches to explain the complex mutational behavior of dinucleotide microsatellites in humans.