Preferential incorporation of G opposite template T by the low-fidelity human DNA polymerase iota

Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Oct;20(19):7099-108. doi: 10.1128/MCB.20.19.7099-7108.2000.


DNA polymerase activity is essential for replication, recombination, repair, and mutagenesis. All DNA polymerases studied so far from any biological source synthesize DNA by the Watson-Crick base-pairing rule, incorporating A, G, C, and T opposite the templates T, C, G, and A, respectively. Non-Watson-Crick base pairs would lead to mutations. In this report, we describe the ninth human DNA polymerase, Pol(iota), encoded by the RAD30B gene. We show that human Pol(iota) violates the Watson-Crick base-pairing rule opposite template T. During base selection, human Pol(iota) preferred T-G base pairing, leading to G incorporation opposite template T. The resulting T-G base pair was less efficiently extended by human Pol(iota) compared to the Watson-Crick base pairs. Consequently, DNA synthesis frequently aborted opposite template T, a property we designated the T stop. This T stop restricted human Pol(iota) to a very short stretch of DNA synthesis. Furthermore, kinetic analyses show that human Pol(iota) copies template C with extraordinarily low fidelity, misincorporating T, A, and C with unprecedented frequencies of 1/9, 1/10, and 1/11, respectively. Human Pol(iota) incorporated one nucleotide opposite a template abasic site more efficiently than opposite a template T, suggesting a role for human Pol(iota) in DNA lesion bypass. The unique features of preferential G incorporation opposite template T and T stop suggest that DNA Pol(iota) may additionally play a specialized function in human biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing*
  • DNA Polymerase iota
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Genetic Code
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Thymine Nucleotides / metabolism*


  • Thymine Nucleotides
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • thymidine 5'-triphosphate
  • DNA Polymerase iota
  • POLI protein, human