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A novel single molecule analysis of spontaneous and radiation-induced mutation at a mouse tandem repeat locus.

Yauk, C.L., Dubrova, Y.E. Grant, G.R. and Jeffreys, A.J.

Mutation Research-Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, 500(1-2), 147-156 (2002).

Expanded simple tandem repeat (ESTR) loci include some of the most unstable DNA in the mouse genome and have been extensively used in pedigree studies of germiline mutation. We now show that repeat DNA instability at the mouse ESTR locus Ms6-hm can also be monitored by single molecule PCR analysis of genomic DNA, Unlike unstable human minisatellites which mutate almost exclusively in the germline by a meiotic recombination-based process, mouse Ms6-hm shows repeat instability both in germinal (sperm) DNA and in somatic (spleen, brain) DNA. There is no significant variation in mutation frequency between mice of the same inbred strain. However, significant variation occurs between tissues, with mice showing the highest mutation frequency in sperm. The size spectra of somatic and sperm mutants are indistinguishable and heavily biased towards gains and losses of only a few repeat units, suggesting repeat turnover by a mitotic replication slippage process operating both in the soma and in the germline. Analysis of male mice following acute pre-meiotic exposure to X-rays showed a significant increase in sperm but not somatic mutation frequency, though no change in the size spectrum of mutants. The level of radiation-induced mutation at Ms6-hin was indistinguishable from that established by conventional pedigree analysis following paternal irradiation. This confirms that mouse ESTR loci are very sensitive to ionizing radiation and establishes that induced germline mutation results from radiation-induced mutant alleles being present in sperm, rather than from unrepaired sperm DNA lesions that subsequently lead to the appearance of mutants in the early embryo. This single molecule monitoring system has the potential to substantially reduce the number of mice needed for germline mutation monitoring, and can be used to study not only germline mutation but also somatic mutation in vivo and in cell culture.