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J Exp Med. 2012 Jun 4;209(6):1075-81. doi: 10.1084/jem.20112234. Epub 2012 May 21.

DNA polymerase ζ generates tandem mutations in immunoglobulin variable regions.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Low-fidelity DNA polymerases introduce nucleotide substitutions in immunoglobulin variable regions during somatic hypermutation. Although DNA polymerase (pol) η is the major low-fidelity polymerase, other DNA polymerases may also contribute. Existing data are contradictory as to whether pol ζ is involved. We reasoned that the presence of pol η may mask the contribution of pol ζ, and therefore we generated mice deficient for pol η and heterozygous for pol ζ. The frequency and spectra of hypermutation was unaltered between Polζ(+/-) Polη(-/-) and Polζ(+/+) Polη(-/-) clones. However, there was a decrease in tandem double-base substitutions in Polζ(+/-) Polη(-/-) cells compared with Polζ(+/+) Polη(-/-) cells, suggesting that pol ζ generates tandem mutations. Contiguous mutations are consistent with the biochemical property of pol ζ to extend a mismatch with a second mutation. The presence of this unique signature implies that pol ζ contributes to mutational synthesis in vivo. Additionally, data on tandem mutations from wild type, Polζ(+/-), Polζ(-/-), Ung(-/-), Msh2(-/-), Msh6(-/-), and Ung(-/-) Msh2(-/-) clones suggest that pol ζ may function in the MSH2-MSH6 pathway.

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