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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Aug;77(3):540-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07260.x. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Biological roles of translesion synthesis DNA polymerases in eubacteria.

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Uppsala University, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, SE-75123 Uppsala, Sweden.


Biological systems are strongly selected to maintain the integrity of their genomes by prevention and repair of external and internal DNA damages. However, some types of DNA lesions persist and might block the replication apparatus. The universal existence of specialized translesion synthesis DNA polymerases (TLS polymerases) that can bypass such lesions in DNA implies that replication blockage is a general biological problem. We suggest that the primary function for which translesion synthesis polymerases are selected is to rescue cells from replication arrest at lesions in DNA, a situation that, if not amended, is likely to cause an immediate and severe reduction in cell fitness and survival. We will argue that the mutagenesis observed during translesion synthesis is an unavoidable secondary consequence of this primary function and not, as has been suggested, an evolved mechanism to increase mutation rates in response to various stresses. Finally, we will discuss recent data on additional roles for translesion synthesis polymerases in the formation of spontaneous deletions and in transcription-coupled TLS, where the coupling of transcription to TLS is proposed to allow the rescue of the transcription machinery arrested at DNA lesions.

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