Chromosomal aberrations have been thought to be random events. However, recent findings introduce a new paradigm in which certain DNA segments have the potential to adopt unusual conformations that lead to genomic instability and nonrandom chromosomal rearrangement. One of the best-studied examples is the palindromic AT-rich repeat (PATRR), which induces recurrent constitutional translocations in humans. Here, we established a plasmid-based model that promotes frequent intermolecular rearrangements between two PATRRs in HEK293 cells. In this model system, the proportion of PATRR plasmid that extrudes a cruciform structure correlates to the levels of rearrangement. Our data suggest that PATRR-mediated translocations are attributable to unusual DNA conformations that confer a common pathway for chromosomal rearrangements in humans.
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