Processive proofreading and the spatial relationship between polymerase and exonuclease active sites of bacteriophage phi29 DNA polymerase

J Mol Biol. 1999 Sep 10;292(1):39-51. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1999.3052.


phi29 DNA polymerase is a multifunctional enzyme, able to incorporate and to proofread misinserted nucleotides, maintaining a very high replication fidelity. Since both activities are functionally separated, a mechanism is needed to guarantee proper coordination between synthesis and degradation, implying movement of the DNA primer terminus between polymerization and 3'-5' exonuclease active sites. Using single-turnover conditions, we have demonstrated that phi29 DNA polymerase edits the polymerization errors using an intramolecular pathway; that is, the primer terminus travels from one active site to the other without dissociation from the DNA. On the other hand, by using chemical tags, we could infer a difference in length of only one nucleotide to contact the primer strand when it is in the polymerization mode versus the editing mode. Using the same approach, it was estimated that phi29 DNA polymerase covers a DNA region of ten nucleotides, as has been measured in other polymerases using different techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus Phages / enzymology*
  • Base Pair Mismatch / genetics
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Exonucleases / metabolism*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Templates, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Exonucleases