DNA polymerase of the T4-related bacteriophages

Prog Nucleic Acid Res Mol Biol. 2000;64:65-96. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6603(00)64002-3.


The DNA polymerase of bacteriophage T4, product of phage gene 43 (gp43), has served as a model replicative DNA polymerase in nucleic acids research for nearly 40 years. The base-selection (polymerase, or Pol) and editing (3'-exonuclease, or Exo) functions of this multifunctional protein, which have counterparts in the replicative polymerases of other organisms, are primary determinants of the high fidelity of DNA synthesis in phage DNA replication. T4 gp43 is considered to be a member of the "B family" of DNA-dependent DNA polymerases (those resembling eukaryotic Pol alpha) because it exhibits striking similarities in primary structure to these enzymes. It has been extensively analyzed at the genetic, physiological, and biochemical levels; however, relationships between the in vivo properties of this enzyme and its physical structure have not always been easy to explain due to a paucity of structural data on the intact molecule. However, gp43 from phage RB69, a phylogenetic relative of T4, was crystallized and its structure solved in a complex with single-stranded DNA occupying the Exo site, as well as in the unliganded form. Analyses with these crystals, and crystals of a T4 gp43 proteolytic fragment harboring the Exo function, are opening new avenues to interpret existing biological and biochemical data on the intact T4 enzyme and are revealing new aspects of the microanatomy of gp43 that can now be explored further for functional significance. We summarize our current understanding of gp43 structure and review the physiological roles of this protein as an essential DNA-binding component of the multiprotein T4 DNA replication complex and as a nucleotide-sequence-specific RNA-binding translational repressor that controls its own biosynthesis and activity in vivo. We also contrast the properties of the T4 DNA replication complex to the functionally analogous complexes of other organisms, particularly Escherichia coli, and point out some of the unanswered questions about gp43 and T4 DNA replication.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacteriophage T4 / enzymology*
  • Bacteriophage T4 / genetics
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Genome, Viral
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • Viral Proteins
  • gene 43 protein, Enterobacteria phage T4
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase