Send to

Choose Destination
Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2001 Nov;32(3):222-35.

DNA polymerase eta undergoes alternative splicing, protects against UV sensitivity and apoptosis, and suppresses Mre11-dependent recombination.

Author information

UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, California 94115, USA.


Polymerase eta (pol eta) is a low-fidelity DNA polymerase that is the product of the gene, POLH, associated with the human XP variant disorder in which there is an extremely high level of solar-induced skin carcinogenesis. The complete human genomic sequence spans about 40 kb containing 10 coding exons and a cDNA of 2.14 kb; exon I is untranslated and is 6 kb upstream from the first coding exon. Using bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs), the gene was mapped to human chromosome band 6p21 and mouse band 17D. The gene is expressed in most tissues, except for very low or undetectable levels in peripheral lymphocytes, fetal spleen, and adult muscle; exon II, however, is frequently spliced out in normal cells and in almost half the transcripts in the testis and fetal liver. Expression of POLH in a multicopy episomal vector proved nonviable, suggesting that overexpression is toxic. Expression from chromosomally integrated linear copies using either an EF1-alpha or CMV promoter was functional, resulting in cell lines with low or high levels of pol eta protein, respectively. Point mutations in the center of the gene and in a C-terminal cysteine and deletion of exon II resulted in inactivation, but addition of a terminal 3 amino acid C-terminal tag, or an N- or C-terminal green fluorescent protein, had no effect on function. A low level of expression of pol eta eliminated hMre11 recombination and partially restored UV survival, but did not prevent UV-induced apoptosis, which required higher levels of expression. Polymerase eta is therefore involved in S-phase checkpoint and signal transduction pathways that lead to arrest in S, apoptosis, and recombination. In normal cells, the predominant mechanism of replication of UV damage involves pol eta-dependent bypass, and Mre11-dependent recombination that acts is a secondary, backup mechanism when cells are severely depleted of pol eta.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center