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Genetics. 2001 Sep; 159(1): 47–64.
PMCID: PMC1461793

In vivo consequences of putative active site mutations in yeast DNA polymerases alpha, epsilon, delta, and zeta.


Several amino acids in the active site of family A DNA polymerases contribute to accurate DNA synthesis. For two of these residues, family B DNA polymerases have conserved tyrosine residues in regions II and III that are suggested to have similar functions. Here we replaced each tyrosine with alanine in the catalytic subunits of yeast DNA polymerases alpha, delta, epsilon, and zeta and examined the consequences in vivo. Strains with the tyrosine substitution in the conserved SL/MYPS/N motif in region II in Pol delta or Pol epsilon are inviable. Strains with same substitution in Rev3, the catalytic subunit of Pol zeta, are nearly UV immutable, suggesting severe loss of function. A strain with this substitution in Pol alpha (pol1-Y869A) is viable, but it exhibits slow growth, sensitivity to hydroxyurea, and a spontaneous mutator phenotype for frameshifts and base substitutions. The pol1-Y869A/pol1-Y869A diploid exhibits aberrant growth. Thus, this tyrosine is critical for the function of all four eukaryotic family B DNA polymerases. Strains with a tyrosine substitution in the conserved NS/VxYG motif in region III in Pol alpha, -delta, or -epsilon are viable and a strain with the homologous substitution in Rev3 is UV mutable. The Pol alpha mutant has no obvious phenotype. The Pol epsilon (pol2-Y831A) mutant is slightly sensitive to hydroxyurea and is a semidominant mutator for spontaneous base substitutions and frameshifts. The Pol delta mutant (pol3-Y708A) grows slowly, is sensitive to hydroxyurea and methyl methanesulfonate, and is a strong base substitution and frameshift mutator. The pol3-Y708A/pol3-Y708A diploid grows slowly and aberrantly. Mutation rates in the Pol alpha, -delta, and -epsilon mutant strains are increased in a locus-specific manner by inactivation of PMS1-dependent DNA mismatch repair, suggesting that the mutator effects are due to reduced fidelity of chromosomal DNA replication. This could result directly from relaxed base selectivity of the mutant polymerases due to the amino acid changes in the polymerase active site. In addition, the alanine substitutions may impair catalytic function to allow a different polymerase to compete at the replication fork. This is supported by the observation that the pol3-Y708A mutation is recessive and its mutator effect is partially suppressed by disruption of the REV3 gene.

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