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Concept: DNA polymerase I


High-throughput recording of signals embedded within inaccessible micro-environments is a technological challenge. The ideal recording device would be a nanoscale machine capable of quantitatively transducing a wide range of variables into a molecular recording medium suitable for long-term storage and facile readout in the form of digital data. We have recently proposed such a device, in which cation concentrations modulate the misincorporation rate of a DNA polymerase (DNAP) on a known template, allowing DNA sequences to encode information about the local cation concentration. In this work we quantify the cation sensitivity of DNAP misincorporation rates, making possible the indirect readout of cation concentration by DNA sequencing. Using multiplexed deep sequencing, we quantify the misincorporation properties of two DNA polymerases - Dpo4 and Klenow exo(-) - obtaining the probability and base selectivity of misincorporation at all positions within the template. We find that Dpo4 acts as a DNA recording device for Mn(2+) with a misincorporation rate gain of ∼2%/mM. This modulation of misincorporation rate is selective to the template base: the probability of misincorporation on template T by Dpo4 increases >50-fold over the range tested, while the other template bases are affected less strongly. Furthermore, cation concentrations act as scaling factors for misincorporation: on a given template base, Mn(2+) and Mg(2+) change the overall misincorporation rate but do not alter the relative frequencies of incoming misincorporated nucleotides. Characterization of the ion dependence of DNAP misincorporation serves as the first step towards repurposing it as a molecular recording device.

Concepts: DNA, Polymerase chain reaction, Chemistry, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme


The development of personalized medicine-in which medical treatment is customized to an individual on the basis of genetic information-requires techniques that can sequence DNA quickly and cheaply. Single-molecule sequencing technologies, such as nanopores, can potentially be used to sequence long strands of DNA without labels or amplification, but a viable technique has yet to be established. Here, we show that single DNA molecules can be sequenced by monitoring the electrical conductance of a phi29 DNA polymerase as it incorporates unlabelled nucleotides into a template strand of DNA. The conductance of the polymerase is measured by attaching it to a protein transistor that consists of an antibody molecule (immunoglobulin G) bound to two gold nanoparticles, which are in turn connected to source and drain electrodes. The electrical conductance of the DNA polymerase exhibits well-separated plateaux that are ∼3 pA in height. Each plateau corresponds to an individual base and is formed at a rate of ∼22 nucleotides per second. Additional spikes appear on top of the plateaux and can be used to discriminate between the four different nucleotides. We also show that the sequencing platform works with a variety of DNA polymerases and can sequence difficult templates such as homopolymers.

Concepts: Antibody, DNA, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme


The ability to detect DNA modification sites at single base resolution could significantly advance studies regarding DNA adduct levels, which are extremely difficult to determine. Artificial nucleotides that are specifically incorporated opposite a modified DNA site offer a potential strategy for detection of such sites by DNA polymerase-based systems. Here we investigated newly synthesized base-modified benzimidazole-derived 2´-deoxynucleoside-5´-O-triphosphates in their action on DNA polymerases when performing translesion DNA synthesis past the pro-mutagenic DNA adduct O(6)-benzylguanine (O(6)-BnG). We found that a mutated form of KlenTaq DNA polymerase, i.e. KTqM747K catalyzed O(6)-BnG adduct-specific processing of the artificial BenziTP in favor of the natural dNTPs. Steady-state kinetic parameters revealed that KTqM747K catalysis of BenziTP is 25-fold more efficient for template O(6)-BnG than G, and 5-fold more efficient than natural dTMP misincorporation in adduct bypass. Furthermore, the nucleotide analog BenziTP is required for full-length product formation in O(6)-BnG bypass, as without BenziTP the polymerase stalls at the adduct site. By combining the KTqM747K polymerase and BenziTP, a first round of DNA synthesis enabled subsequent amplification of Benzi-containing DNA. These results advance the development of technologies for detecting DNA adducts.

Concepts: DNA, Base pair, DNA replication, Reverse transcriptase, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme


The synthesis and characterization of novel acyclic and cyclic pyridone-based nucleosides and nucleotides is described. In total, seven nucleosides and four nucleotides were synthesized. None of the tested nucleosides showed inhibitory properties against Klenow exo- polymerase and M.MuLV and HIV-1 reverse transcriptases. The nucleotides containing 4-chloro- and 4-bromo-2-pyridone as a nucleobase were accepted by the Klenow fragment, but at the expense of fidelity and extension efficiency.

Concepts: DNA, RNA, Nucleoside, Nucleotide, Adenine, Nucleobase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase


Ribonucleotides and 2'-deoxyribonucleotides are the basic units for RNA and DNA, respectively, and the only difference is the extra 2'-OH group on the RNA sugar. Cellular rNTP concentrations are much higher than those of dNTP. When copying DNA, DNA polymerases not only select the base of the incoming dNTP to conform to Watson-Crick pairing with the template base but also distinguish the sugar moiety. Some DNA polymerases use a steric gate residue to prevent rNTP incorporation by creating a clash with the 2'-OH group. Y-family human DNA polymerase η (hpol η) is of interest owing to its spacious active site (especially in the major groove) and tolerance of DNA lesions. Here, we show that hpol η maintains base selectivity when incorporating rNTPs opposite undamaged DNA and the DNA lesions 7,8-dihydro-8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG) and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) but with rates that are 103-fold lower than for inserting the corresponding dNTPs. X-ray crystal structures show that hpol η scaffolds the incoming rNTP to pair with the template base (dG) or 8-oxodG with a significant propeller twist. As a result, the 2'-OH group avoids a clash with the steric gate, Phe-18, but the distance between primer end and Pα of the incoming rNTP increases by 1 A, elevating the energy barrier and slowing polymerization compared with dNTP. In addition, Tyr-92 was identified as a second line of defense to maintain the position of Phe-18. This is the first crystal structure of a DNA polymerase with an incoming rNTP opposite a DNA lesion.

Concepts: DNA, Enzyme, RNA, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, Xeroderma pigmentosum


The eukaryotic genome is primarily replicated by two DNA polymerases, Pol ε and Pol δ, that function on the leading and lagging strands, respectively. Previous studies have established recruitment mechanisms whereby Cdc45-Mcm2-7-GINS (CMG) helicase binds Pol ε and tethers it to the leading strand, and PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen) binds tightly to Pol δ and recruits it to the lagging strand. The current report identifies quality control mechanisms that exclude the improper polymerase from a particular strand. We find that the replication factor C (RFC) clamp loader specifically inhibits Pol ε on the lagging strand, and CMG protects Pol ε against RFC inhibition on the leading strand. Previous studies show that Pol δ is slow and distributive with CMG on the leading strand. However, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Pol δ-PCNA is a rapid and processive enzyme, suggesting that CMG may bind and alter Pol δ activity or position it on the lagging strand. Measurements of polymerase binding to CMG demonstrate Pol ε binds CMG with a Kd value of 12 nM, but Pol δ binding CMG is undetectable. Pol δ, like bacterial replicases, undergoes collision release upon completing replication, and we propose Pol δ-PCNA collides with the slower CMG, and in the absence of a stabilizing Pol δ-CMG interaction, the collision release process is triggered, ejecting Pol δ on the leading strand. Hence, by eviction of incorrect polymerases at the fork, the clamp machinery directs quality control on the lagging strand and CMG enforces quality control on the leading strand.

Concepts: DNA, Fungus, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen, DNA polymerase I, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, Replication factor C


A molecular device that records time-varying signals would enable new approaches in neuroscience. We have recently proposed such a device, termed a “molecular ticker tape”, in which an engineered DNA polymerase (DNAP) writes time-varying signals into DNA in the form of nucleotide misincorporation patterns. Here, we define a theoretical framework quantifying the expected capabilities of molecular ticker tapes as a function of experimental parameters. We present a decoding algorithm for estimating time-dependent input signals, and DNAP kinetic parameters, directly from misincorporation rates as determined by sequencing. We explore the requirements for accurate signal decoding, particularly the constraints on (1) the polymerase biochemical parameters, and (2) the amplitude, temporal resolution, and duration of the time-varying input signals. Our results suggest that molecular recording devices with kinetic properties similar to natural polymerases could be used to perform experiments in which neural activity is compared across several experimental conditions, and that devices engineered by combining favorable biochemical properties from multiple known polymerases could potentially measure faster phenomena such as slow synchronization of neuronal oscillations. Sophisticated engineering of DNAPs is likely required to achieve molecular recording of neuronal activity with single-spike temporal resolution over experimentally relevant timescales.

Concepts: DNA, Statistics, Chemistry, Experiment, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme


Fragment-based screening methods can be used to discover novel active site or allosteric inhibitors for therapeutic intervention. Using saturation transfer difference (STD) NMR and in vitro activity assays, we have identified fragment-sized inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) with distinct chemical scaffolds and mechanisms compared to nonnucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs) and nucleoside/nucleotide RT inhibitors (NRTIs). Three compounds were found to inhibit RNA- and DNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity of HIV-1 RT in the micromolar range while retaining potency against RT variants carrying one of three major NNRTI resistance mutations: K103N, Y181C, or G190A. These compounds also inhibit Moloney murine leukemia virus RT but not the Klenow fragment of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I. Steady-state kinetic analyses demonstrate that one of these fragments is a competitive inhibitor of HIV-1 RT with respect to deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) substrate, whereas a second compound is a competitive inhibitor of RT polymerase activity with respect to the DNA template/primer (T/P), and consequently also inhibits RNase H activity. The dNTP competing RT inhibitor retains activity against the NRTI-resistant mutants K65R and M184V, demonstrating a drug resistance profile distinct from the nucleotide competing RT inhibitors indolopyridone-1 (INDOPY-1) and 4-dimethylamino-6-vinylpyrimidine-1 (DAVP-1). In antiviral assays, the T/P competing compound inhibits HIV-1 replication at a step consistent with an RT inhibitor. Screening of additional structurally related compounds to the three fragments led to the discovery of molecules with improved potency against HIV-1 RT. These fragment inhibitors represent previously unidentified scaffolds for development of novel drugs for HIV-1 prevention or treatment.

Concepts: DNA, Enzyme, DNA replication, Reverse transcriptase, Enzyme inhibitor, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Murine leukemia virus


DNA polymerase δ, whose catalytic subunit is encoded by POLD1, is responsible for lagging-strand DNA synthesis during DNA replication. It carries out this synthesis with high fidelity owing to its intrinsic 3'- to 5'-exonuclease activity, which confers proofreading ability. Missense mutations affecting the exonuclease domain of POLD1 have recently been shown to predispose to colorectal and endometrial cancers. Here we report a recurring heterozygous single-codon deletion in POLD1 affecting the polymerase active site that abolishes DNA polymerase activity but only mildly impairs 3'- to 5'-exonuclease activity. This mutation causes a distinct multisystem disorder that includes subcutaneous lipodystrophy, deafness, mandibular hypoplasia and hypogonadism in males. This discovery suggests that perturbing the function of the ubiquitously expressed POLD1 polymerase has unexpectedly tissue-specific effects in humans and argues for an important role for POLD1 function in adipose tissue homeostasis.

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Enzyme, DNA replication, Point mutation, DNA polymerase, Missense mutation, DNA polymerase I


At the eukaryotic DNA replication fork, it is widely believed that the Cdc45-Mcm2-7-GINS (CMG) helicase is positioned in front to unwind DNA and that DNA polymerases trail behind the helicase. Here we used single-particle EM to directly image a Saccharomyces cerevisiae replisome. Contrary to expectations, the leading strand Pol ɛ is positioned ahead of CMG helicase, whereas Ctf4 and the lagging-strand polymerase (Pol) α-primase are behind the helicase. This unexpected architecture indicates that the leading-strand DNA travels a long distance before reaching Pol ɛ, first threading through the Mcm2-7 ring and then making a U-turn at the bottom and reaching Pol ɛ at the top of CMG. Our work reveals an unexpected configuration of the eukaryotic replisome, suggests possible reasons for this architecture and provides a basis for further structural and biochemical replisome studies.

Concepts: DNA, Fungus, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, DNA polymerase I, Polymerase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, Retrovirus