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FEBS J. 2011 Sep;278(17):3109-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08236.x. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

The N-terminal region of the bacterial DNA polymerase PolC features a pair of domains, both distantly related to domain V of the DNA polymerase III τ subunit.

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Institute of Biotechnology, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania.


PolC is one of two essential replicative DNA polymerases in Bacillus subtilis and other Gram-positive bacteria. The 3D structure of PolC has recently been solved, yet it lacks the N-terminal region. For this PolC region of ∼ 230 residues, both the structure and function are unknown. In the present study, using sensitive homology detection and comparative protein structure modeling, we identified, in this enigmatic region, two consecutive globular domains, PolC-NI and PolC-NII, which are followed by an apparently unstructured linker. Unexpectedly, we found that both domains are related to domain V of the τ subunit, which is part of the bacterial DNA polymerase III holoenzyme. Despite their common homology to τ, PolC-NI and PolC-NII exhibit very little sequence similarity to each other. This observation argues against simple tandem duplication within PolC as the origin of the two-domain structure. Using the derived structural models, we analyzed residue conservation and the surface properties of both PolC N-terminal domains. We detected a surface patch of positive electrostatic potential in PolC-NI and a hydrophobic surface patch in PolC-NII, suggesting their possible involvement in nucleic acid and protein binding, respectively. PolC is known to interact with the τ subunit, however, the region responsible for this interaction is unknown. We propose that the PolC N-terminus is involved in mediating the PolC-τ interaction and possibly also in binding DNA.

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