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EMBO J. 2002 Feb 1;21(3):427-39.

Crystal structures of a template-independent DNA polymerase: murine terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase.

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Unité de Biochimie Structurale, URA 2185 du CNRS, Institut Pasteur, 25 rue du Dr Roux, 75015 Paris France.


The crystal structure of the catalytic core of murine terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase (TdT) at 2.35 A resolution reveals a typical DNA polymerase beta-like fold locked in a closed form. In addition, the structures of two different binary complexes, one with an oligonucleotide primer and the other with an incoming ddATP-Co(2+) complex, show that the substrates and the two divalent ions in the catalytic site are positioned in TdT in a manner similar to that described for the human DNA polymerase beta ternary complex, suggesting a common two metal ions mechanism of nucleotidyl transfer in these two proteins. The inability of TdT to accommodate a template strand can be explained by steric hindrance at the catalytic site caused by a long lariat-like loop, which is absent in DNA polymerase beta. However, displacement of this discriminating loop would be sufficient to unmask a number of evolutionarily conserved residues, which could then interact with a template DNA strand. The present structure can be used to model the recently discovered human polymerase mu, with which it shares 43% sequence identity.

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