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Annu Rev Genet. 2003;37:31-66.

Error-prone DNA polymerases: when making a mistake is the only way to get ahead.

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  • 1Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory, NCI-Frederick, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


Cells have high-fidelity polymerases whose task is to accurately replicate the genome, and low-fidelity polymerases with specialized functions. Although some of these low-fidelity polymerases are exceptional in their ability to replicate damaged DNA and restore the undamaged sequence, they are error prone on undamaged DNA. In fact, these error-prone polymerases are sometimes used in circumstances where the capacity to make errors has a selective advantage. The mutagenic potential of the error-prone polymerases requires that their expression, activity, and access to undamaged DNA templates be regulated. Here we review these specialized polymerases with an emphasis on their biological roles.

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