Is there a link between DNA polymerase beta and cancer?

Cell Cycle. 2004 Aug;3(8):998-1001. Epub 2004 Aug 29.


Recent small-scale studies have shown that 30% of human tumors examined to date express DNA polymerase beta variant proteins. One of the DNA polymerase beta colon cancer-associated mutants, K289M, has been shown to synthesize DNA with a lower fidelity than wild-type Pol beta. Thus, the K289M protein could confer a mutator phenotype to the cell, resulting in genomic instability. Another DNA polymerase beta variant identified in colon carcinoma interferes with base excision repair in cells. This may result in unfilled gaps which can serve as substrates for recombination and result in genomic instability. DNA polymerase beta has also been shown to be overexpressed in a variety of tumors. In some cases, overexpression of polymerase beta in cells confers a transformed phenotype to the cells. In other cases, overexpression results in telomere fusions. Thus, mutant forms or aberrant quantities of polymerase beta confer a mutator phenotype to cells. Combined with the small-scale tumor studies, these mechanistic studies implicate variant forms of DNA polymerase beta in the etiology of human cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution / genetics
  • Animals
  • DNA Polymerase beta / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*


  • DNA Polymerase beta