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J Biol Chem. 2005 Aug 19;280(33):29980-7. Epub 2005 Jun 17.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae DNA polymerase delta: high fidelity for base substitutions but lower fidelity for single- and multi-base deletions.

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Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Laboratory of Structural Biology, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Eukaryotic DNA polymerase delta (Pol delta) plays an essential role in replicating large nuclear genomes, a process that must be accurate to maintain stability over many generations. Based on kinetic studies of insertion of individual dNTPs opposite a template guanine, Pol delta is believed to have high selectivity for inserting correct nucleotides. This high selectivity, in conjunction with an intrinsic 3'-exonuclease activity, implies that Pol delta should have high base substitution fidelity. Here we demonstrate that the wild type Saccharomyces cerevisiae three-subunit Pol delta does indeed have high base substitution fidelity for the 12 possible base-base mismatches, producing on average less than 1.3 stable misincorporations/100,000 nucleotides polymerized. Measurements with exonuclease-deficient Pol delta confirm the high nucleotide selectivity of the polymerase and further indicate that proofreading enhances the base substitution fidelity of the wild type enzyme by at least 60-fold. However, Pol delta inefficiently proofreads single nucleotide deletion mismatches in homopolymeric runs, such that the error rate is 30 single nucleotide deletions/100,000 nucleotides polymerized. Moreover, wild type Pol delta frequently deletes larger numbers of nucleotides between distantly spaced direct repeats of three or more base pairs. Although wild type Pol delta and Pol epsilon both have high base substitution fidelity, Pol delta is much less accurate than Pol epsilon for deletions involving repetitive sequences. Thus, strand slippage during replication by wild type Pol delta may be a primary source of insertion and deletion mutagenesis in eukaryotic genomes.

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