A triplet mutation is defined as multiple base substitutions or frameshifts within a three-nucleotide sequence which includes a dipyrimidine sequence. Triplet mutations have recently been identified as a new type of UV-specific mutation, although the mechanism of their formation is unknown. A total of 163 triplet mutations were identified through an extensive search of previously published data on UV-induced mutations, including mutations from skin, skin cancer, and cultured mammalian cells. Seven common patterns of sequence changes were found: Type I, NTC → TTT; Type IIa, NCC → PyTT or PyCT (Py, pyrimidine); Type IIb, TCC → PuTT or PuCT (Pu, purine); Type III, NCC → NAT or NTA; Type IV, NTT → AAT; Type Va, NCT → NTX; and Type Vb, PuCT → XTT (N and X, independent anonymous bases). Furthermore, it is suggested that the type of UV lesion responsible for each of these triplet mutation classes are (a) pyrimidine(6-4)pyrimidone photoproducts for Types I, IIb, III, IV and Vb, (b) cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers for Type Va, and (c) Dewar valence isomers for Types IIa and IIb. These estimations are based primarily on results from previous studies using photolyases specific for each type of UV lesion. A model is proposed to explain the formation of each type of triplet mutation, based on error-prone translesional DNA synthesis opposite UV-specific photolesions. The model is largely consistent with the 'A-rule', and predicts error-prone insertions not only opposite photolesions but also opposite the undamaged template base one-nucleotide downstream from the lesions.
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