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Genetics. 1994 Feb;136(2):439-48.

DNA polymerase II of Escherichia coli in the bypass of abasic sites in vivo.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


The function of DNA polymerase II of Escherichia coli is an old question. Any phenotypic character that Pol II may confer upon the cell has escaped detection since the polymerase was discovered 24 yr ago. Although it has been shown that Pol II enables DNA synthesis to proceed past abasic sites in vitro, no role is known for it in the bypass of those lesions in vivo. From a study of phage S13 single-stranded DNA, we now report SOS conditions under which Pol II is needed for DNA synthesis to proceed past abasic sites with 100% efficiency in vivo. Overproduction of the GroES+L+ heat shock proteins, which are members of a ubiquitous family of molecular chaperones, eliminated this requirement for Pol II, which may explain why the role of Pol II in SOS repair had eluded discovery. Mutagenesis accompanied SOS bypass of abasic sites when the original occupant had been cytosine but not when it had been thymine; the quantitative difference is shown to imply that adenine was inserted opposite the abasic sites at least 99.7% of the time, which is an especially strict application of the A-rule. Most, but not all, spontaneous mutations from Rifs to Rifr, whether in a recA+ or a recA(Prtc) cell, require Pol II; while this suggests that cryptic abasic lesions are a likely source of spontaneous mutations, it also shows that such lesions cannot be the exclusive source.

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