Polymerase mu is a DNA-directed DNA/RNA polymerase

Mol Cell Biol. 2003 Apr;23(7):2309-15. doi: 10.1128/MCB.23.7.2309-2315.2003.


DNA polymerases are defined as such because they use deoxynucleotides instead of ribonucleotides with high specificity. We show here that polymerase mu (pol mu), implicated in the nonhomologous end-joining pathway for repair of DNA double-strand breaks, incorporates both ribonucleotides and deoxynucleotides in a template-directed manner. pol mu has an approximately 1,000-fold-reduced ability to discriminate against ribonucleotides compared to that of the related pol beta, although pol mu's substrate specificity is similar to that of pol beta in most other respects. Moreover, pol mu more frequently incorporates ribonucleotides when presented with nucleotide concentrations that approximate cellular pools. We therefore addressed the impact of ribonucleotide incorporation on the activities of factors required for double-strand break repair by nonhomologous end joining. We determined that the ligase required for this pathway readily joined strand breaks with terminal ribonucleotides. Most significantly, pol mu frequently introduced ribonucleotides into the repair junctions of an in vitro nonhomologous end-joining reaction, an activity that would be expected to have important consequences in the context of cellular double-strand break repair.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cations, Divalent / chemistry
  • DNA Ligases / chemistry
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase / chemistry
  • DNA Polymerase beta / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / chemistry*
  • Deoxyribonucleotides / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry
  • Ribonucleotides / chemistry
  • Substrate Specificity / physiology


  • Cations, Divalent
  • Deoxyribonucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Ribonucleotides
  • DNA polymerase mu
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases
  • DNA Polymerase beta
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • DNA Ligases