The insulin gene-linked polymorphic region (ILPR), located 363 bp upstream of the human insulin gene, is composed of tandem repeats of the consensus sequence ACAGGGGT(G/C)(T/C)GGGG. It has previously been shown that an insulin gene fragment containing the ILPR adopts an altered DNA structure in vitro. Furthermore, oligonucleotides containing the consensus repeat sequence exhibit multiple quadriplex DNA structures. The present study was undertaken to determine whether such altered DNA structures existed within the ILPR when the insulin gene was assembled into chromatin in vitro. Chromatin assembly was achieved using histones and an extract from unfertilized eggs from Xenopus laevis. The presence of altered DNA conformations within the 5′ region of the human insulin gene was investigated using the structural probe nuclease P1. Nuclease P1 recognized multiple distinct sites in the 5′ flanking region of the human insulin gene in naked DNA. Most of these sites disappeared when the recombinant plasmid DNA was treated with histones and unfertilized egg extract. In the assembled DNA, the ILPR appeared as the major site of nuclease P1 hypersensitivity. Fine-mapping of the multiple reactive sites within the ILPR showed a pattern characteristic of G-quartet foldback structures similar to those that have been observed for telomeric DNA.
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