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J Biol Chem. 2001 Feb 16;276(7):5044-51. Epub 2000 Nov 7.

A single highly mutable catalytic site amino acid is critical for DNA polymerase fidelity.

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Joseph Gottstein Memorial Cancer Laboratory, Departments of Pathology and Biological Structure, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


DNA polymerases contain active sites that are structurally superimposable and conserved in amino acid sequence. To probe the biochemical and structure-function relationship of DNA polymerases, a large library (200,000 members) of mutant Thermus aquaticus DNA polymerase I (Taq pol I) was created containing random substitutions within a portion of the dNTP binding site (Motif A; amino acids 605-617), and a fraction of all selected active Taq pol I (291 out of 8000) was tested for base pairing fidelity; seven unique mutants that efficiently misincorporate bases and/or extend mismatched bases were identified and sequenced. These mutants all contain substitutions of one specific amino acid, Ile-614, which forms part of the hydrophobic pocket that binds the base and ribose portions of the incoming nucleotide. Mutant Taq pol Is containing hydrophilic substitution I614K exhibit 10-fold lower base misincorporation fidelity, as well as a high propensity to extend mispairs. In addition, these low fidelity mutants containing hydrophilic substitution for Ile-614 can bypass damaged templates that include an abasic site and vinyl chloride adduct ethenoA. During polymerase chain reaction, Taq pol I mutant I614K exhibits an error rate that is >20-fold higher relative to the wild-type enzyme and efficiently catalyzes both transition and transversion errors. These studies have generated polymerase chain reaction-proficient mutant polymerases containing substitutions within the active site that confers low base pairing fidelity and a high error rate. Considering the structural and sequence conservation of Motif A, it is likely that a similar substitution will yield active low fidelity DNA polymerases that are mutagenic.

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