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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 May;1804(5):1064-80. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2009.08.023. Epub 2009 Sep 3.

Non-natural nucleotides as probes for the mechanism and fidelity of DNA polymerases.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


DNA is a remarkable macromolecule that functions primarily as the carrier of the genetic information of organisms ranging from viruses to bacteria to eukaryotes. The ability of DNA polymerases to efficiently and accurately replicate genetic material represents one of the most fundamental yet complex biological processes found in nature. The central dogma of DNA polymerization is that the efficiency and fidelity of this biological process is dependent upon proper hydrogen-bonding interactions between an incoming nucleotide and its templating partner. However, the foundation of this dogma has been recently challenged by the demonstration that DNA polymerases can effectively and, in some cases, selectively incorporate non-natural nucleotides lacking classic hydrogen-bonding capabilities into DNA. In this review, we describe the results of several laboratories that have employed a variety of non-natural nucleotide analogs to decipher the molecular mechanism of DNA polymerization. The use of various non-natural nucleotides has lead to the development of several different models that can explain how efficient DNA synthesis can occur in the absence of hydrogen-bonding interactions. These models include the influence of steric fit and shape complementarity, hydrophobicity and solvation energies, base-stacking capabilities, and negative selection as alternatives to rules invoking simple recognition of hydrogen-bonding patterns. Discussions are also provided regarding how the kinetics of primer extension and exonuclease proofreading activities associated with high-fidelity DNA polymerases are influenced by the absence of hydrogen-bonding functional groups exhibited by non-natural nucleotides.

Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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