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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 29;279(44):45360-8. Epub 2004 Aug 31.

To slip or skip, visualizing frameshift mutation dynamics for error-prone DNA polymerases.

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Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry, Hedco Molecular Biology Laboratories, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-1340, USA.


Three models describing frameshift mutations are "classical" Streisinger slippage, proposed for repetitive DNA, and "misincorporatation misalignment" and "dNTP-stabilized misalignment," proposed for non-repetitive DNA. We distinguish between models using pre-steady state fluorescence kinetics to visualize transiently misaligned DNA intermediates and nucleotide incorporation products formed by DNA polymerases adept at making small frameshift mutations in vivo. Human polymerase (pol) mu catalyzes Streisinger slippage exclusively in repetitive DNA, requiring as little as a dinucleotide repeat. Escherichia coli pol IV uses dNTP-stabilized misalignment in identical repetitive DNA sequences, revealing that pol mu and pol IV use different mechanisms in repetitive DNA to achieve the same mutational end point. In non-repeat sequences, pol mu switches to dNTP-stabilized misalignment. pol beta generates -1 frameshifts in "long" repeats and base substitutions in "short" repeats. Thus, two polymerases can use two different frameshift mechanisms on identical sequences, whereas one polymerase can alternate between frameshift mechanisms to process different sequences.

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