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Mol Microbiol. 2009 Jan;71(2):315-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06526.x. Epub 2008 Nov 4.

DNA polymerase switching: effects on spontaneous mutagenesis in Escherichia coli.

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Laboratory of Genomic Integrity, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-3371, USA.


Escherichia coli possesses five known DNA polymerases (pols). Pol III holoenzyme is the cell's main replicase, while pol I is responsible for the maturation of Okazaki fragments and filling gaps generated during nucleotide excision repair. Pols II, IV and V are significantly upregulated as part of the cell's global SOS response to DNA damage and under these conditions, may alter the fidelity of DNA replication by potentially interfering with the ability of pols I and III to complete their cellular functions. To test this hypothesis, we determined the spectrum of rpoB mutations arising in an isogenic set of mutL strains differentially expressing the chromosomally encoded pols. Interestingly, mutagenic hot spots in rpoB were identified that are susceptible to the actions of pols I-V. For example, in a recA730 lexA(Def) mutL background most transversions were dependent upon pols IV and V. In contrast, transitions were largely dependent upon pol I and to a lesser extent, pol III. Furthermore, the extent of pol I-dependent mutagenesis at one particular site was modulated by pols II and IV. Our observations suggest that there is considerable interplay among all five E. coli polymerases that either reduces or enhances the mutagenic load on the E. coli chromosome.

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