Evolution of the two-step model for UV-mutagenesis

Mutat Res. 2001 Feb 25;485(1):83-92. doi: 10.1016/s0921-8777(00)00076-8.


It is quite remarkable how our understanding of translesion DNA synthesis (TLS) has changed so dramatically in the past 2 years. Until very recently, little was known about the molecular mechanisms of TLS in higher eukaryotes and what we did know, was largely based upon Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae model systems. The paradigm, proposed by Bryn Bridges and I [Mutat. Res. 150 (1985) 133] in 1985, was that error-prone TLS occurred in two steps; namely a misinsertion event opposite a lesion, followed by extension of the mispair so as to facilitate complete bypass of the lesion. The initial concept was that at least for E. coli, the misinsertion event was performed by the cell's main replicase, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme, and that elongation was achieved through the actions of specialized polymerase accessory proteins, such as UmuD and UmuC. Some 15 years later, we now know that this view is likely to be incorrect in that both misinsertion and bypass are performed by the Umu proteins (now called pol V). As pol V is normally a distributive enzyme, pol III may only be required to "fix" the misincorporation as a mutation by completing chromosome duplication. However, while the role of the E. coli proteins involved in TLS have changed, the initial concept of misincorporation followed by extension/bypass remains valid. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that it can equally be applied to TLS in eukaryotic cells where there are many more DNA polymerases to choose from. The aim of this review is, therefore, to provide a historical perspective to the "two-step" model for UV-mutagenesis, how it has recently evolved, and in particular, to highlight the seminal contributions made to it by Bryn Bridges.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Polymerase III / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / radiation effects
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • History, 20th Century
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutagenesis*
  • SOS Response, Genetics / genetics
  • SOS Response, Genetics / physiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • DNA polymerase V, E coli
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase

Personal name as subject

  • B Bridges