Error-prone repair DNA polymerases in prokaryotes and eukaryotes

Annu Rev Biochem. 2002;71:17-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.71.083101.124707. Epub 2001 Nov 9.


DNA repair is crucial to the well-being of all organisms from unicellular life forms to humans. A rich tapestry of mechanistic studies on DNA repair has emerged thanks to the recent discovery of Y-family DNA polymerases. Many Y-family members carry out aberrant DNA synthesis-poor replication accuracy, the favored formation of non-Watson-Crick base pairs, efficient mismatch extension, and most importantly, an ability to replicate through DNA damage. This review is devoted primarily to a discussion of Y-family polymerase members that exhibit error-prone behavior. Roles for these remarkable enzymes occur in widely disparate DNA repair pathways, such as UV-induced mutagenesis, adaptive mutation, avoidance of skin cancer, and induction of somatic cell hypermutation of immunoglobulin genes. Individual polymerases engaged in multiple repair pathways pose challenging questions about their roles in targeting and trafficking. Macromolecular assemblies of replication-repair "factories" could enable a cell to handle the complex logistics governing the rapid migration and exchange of polymerases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / enzymology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • SOS Response, Genetics / genetics
  • SOS Response, Genetics / physiology*
  • Somatic Hypermutation, Immunoglobulin / genetics


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase