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J Bacteriol. 2012 Jul;194(14):3589-600. doi: 10.1128/JB.00520-12. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Escherichia coli DNA polymerase IV (Pol IV), but not Pol II, dynamically switches with a stalled Pol III* replicase.

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Department of Biochemistry, The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA.


The dnaN159 allele encodes a temperature-sensitive mutant form of the β sliding clamp (β159). SOS-induced levels of DNA polymerase IV (Pol IV) confer UV sensitivity upon the dnaN159 strain, while levels of Pol IV ∼4-fold higher than those induced by the SOS response severely impede its growth. Here, we used mutations in Pol IV that disrupted specific interactions with the β clamp to test our hypothesis that these phenotypes were the result of Pol IV gaining inappropriate access to the replication fork via a Pol III*-Pol IV switch relying on both the rim and cleft of the clamp. Our results clearly demonstrate that Pol IV relied on both the clamp rim and cleft interactions for these phenotypes. In contrast to the case for Pol IV, elevated levels of the other Pols, including Pol II, which was expressed at levels ∼8-fold higher than the normal SOS-induced levels, failed to impede growth of the dnaN159 strain. These findings suggest that the mechanism used by Pol IV to switch with Pol III* is distinct from those used by the other Pols. Results of experiments utilizing purified components to reconstitute the Pol III*-Pol II switch in vitro indicated that Pol II switched equally well with both a stalled and an actively replicating Pol III* in a manner that was independent of the rim contact required by Pol IV. These results provide compelling support for the Pol III*-Pol IV two-step switch model and demonstrate important mechanistic differences in how Pol IV and Pol II switch with Pol III*.

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