Replication slippage of DNA polymerases is a potential source of spontaneous genetic rearrangements in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Here we show that different thermostable DNA polymerases undergo replication slippage in vitro, during single-round replication of a single-stranded DNA template carrying a hairpin structure. Low-fidelity polymerases, such as Thermus aquaticus (Taq), high-fidelity polymerases, such as Pyrococcus furiosus (Pfu) and a highly thermostable polymerase from Pyrococcus abyssi (Pyra exo(-)) undergo slippage. Thermococcus litoralis DNA polymerase (Vent) is also able to slip; however, slippage can be inhibited when its strand-displacement activity is induced. Moreover, DNA polymerases that have a constitutive strand-displacement activity, such as Bacillus stearothermophilus DNA polymerase (Bst), do not slip. Polymerases that slip during single-round replication generate hairpin deletions during PCR amplification, with the exception of Vent polymerase because its strand-displacement activity is induced under these conditions. We show that these hairpin deletions occurring during PCR are due to replication slippage, and not to a previously proposed process involving polymerization across the hairpin base.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.