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J Biol Chem. 2014 Sep 26;289(39):26772-82. doi: 10.1074/jbc.X114.607374. Epub 2014 Aug 26.

The discovery of error-prone DNA polymerase V and its unique regulation by RecA and ATP.

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From the Molecular and Computational Section, Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089


My career pathway has taken a circuitous route, beginning with a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from The Johns Hopkins University, followed by five postdoctoral years in biology at Hopkins and culminating in a faculty position in biological sciences at the University of Southern California. My startup package in 1973 consisted of $2,500, not to be spent all at once, plus an ancient Packard scintillation counter that had a series of rapidly flashing light bulbs to indicate a radioactive readout in counts/minute. My research pathway has been similarly circuitous. The discovery of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase V (pol V) began with an attempt to identify the mutagenic DNA polymerase responsible for copying damaged DNA as part of the well known SOS regulon. Although we succeeded in identifying a DNA polymerase, one that was induced as part of the SOS response, we actually rediscovered DNA polymerase II, albeit in a new role. A decade later, we discovered a new polymerase, pol V, whose activity turned out to be regulated by bound molecules of RecA protein and ATP. This Reflections article describes our research trajectory, includes a review of key features of DNA damage-induced SOS mutagenesis leading us to pol V, and reflects on some of the principal researchers who have made indispensable contributions to our efforts.


ATP; DNA Damage; DNA Polymerase; DNA Synthesis; Mutagenesis; RecA Nucleoprotein Filament; SOS Mutagenesis; Translesion DNA Synthesis

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