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J Biol Chem. 1999 Dec 10;274(50):35866-72.

The E249K mutator mutant of DNA polymerase beta extends mispaired termini.

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Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Therapeutic Radiology, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


The DNA polymerase beta mutant enzyme, which is altered from glutamic acid to lysine at position 249, exhibits a mutator phenotype in primer extension assays and in the herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase (HSV-tk) forward mutation assay. The basis for this loss of accuracy was investigated by measurement of misincorporation fidelity in single turnover conditions. For the four misincorporation reactions investigated, the fidelity of the E249K mutant was not significantly different from wild type, implying that the mutator phenotype was not caused by a general inability to distinguish between correct and incorrect bases during the incorporation reaction. However, the discrimination between correct and incorrect substrates by the E249K enzyme occurred less during the conformational change and chemical steps and more during the initial binding step, compared with pol beta wild type. This implies that the E249K mutation alters the kinetic mechanism of nucleotide discrimination without reducing misincorporation fidelity. In a missing base primer extension assay, we observed that the mutant enzyme produced mispairs and extended them. This indicates that the altered fidelity of E249K could be due to loss of discrimination against mispaired primer termini. This was supported by the finding that the E249K enzyme extended a G:A mispair 8-fold more efficiently than wild type and a C:T mispair 4-fold more efficiently. These results demonstrate that an enhanced ability to extend mispairs can produce a mutator phenotype and that the Glu-249 side chain of DNA polymerase beta is critical for mispair extension fidelity.

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