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Biochemistry. 2007 Sep 25;46(38):10790-803. Epub 2007 Aug 29.

Conformational changes during normal and error-prone incorporation of nucleotides by a Y-family DNA polymerase detected by 2-aminopurine fluorescence.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


Y-family polymerases are specialized to carry out DNA synthesis past sites of DNA damage. Their active sites make fewer contacts to their substrates, consistent with the remarkably low fidelity of these DNA polymerases when copying undamaged DNA. We have used DNA containing the fluorescent reporter 2-aminopurine (2-AP) to study the reaction pathway of the Y-family polymerase Dbh. We detected 3 rapid noncovalent steps between binding of a correctly paired dNTP and the rate-limiting step for dNTP incorporation. These early steps resemble those seen with high-fidelity DNA polymerases, such as Klenow fragment, and include a step that may be related to the unstacking of the 5' neighbor of the templating base that is seen in polymerase ternary complex crystal structures. A significant difference between Dbh and high-fidelity polymerases is that Dbh generates no fluorescence changes subsequent to dNTP binding if the primer lacks a 3'OH, suggesting that the looser active site of Y-family polymerases may enforce reliance on the correct substrate structure in order to assemble the catalytic center. Dbh, like other bypass polymerases of the DinB subgroup, generates single-base deletion errors at an extremely high frequency by skipping over a template base that is part of a repetitive sequence. Using 2-AP as a reporter to study the base-skipping process, we determined that Dbh uses a mechanism in which the templating base slips back to pair with the primer terminus while the base that was originally paired with the primer terminus becomes unpaired.

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