Efficiency and fidelity of human DNA polymerases λ and β during gap-filling DNA synthesis

DNA Repair (Amst). 2011 Jan 2;10(1):24-33. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2010.09.005. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


The base excision repair (BER) pathway coordinates the replacement of 1-10 nucleotides at sites of single-base lesions. This process generates DNA substrates with various gap sizes which can alter the catalytic efficiency and fidelity of a DNA polymerase during gap-filling DNA synthesis. Here, we quantitatively determined the substrate specificity and base substitution fidelity of human DNA polymerase λ (Pol λ), an enzyme proposed to support the known BER DNA polymerase β (Pol β), as it filled 1-10-nucleotide gaps at 1-nucleotide intervals. Pol λ incorporated a correct nucleotide with relatively high efficiency until the gap size exceeded 9 nucleotides. Unlike Pol λ, Pol β did not have an absolute threshold on gap size as the catalytic efficiency for a correct dNTP gradually decreased as the gap size increased from 2 to 10 nucleotides and then recovered for non-gapped DNA. Surprisingly, an increase in gap size resulted in lower polymerase fidelity for Pol λ, and this downregulation of fidelity was controlled by its non-enzymatic N-terminal domains. Overall, Pol λ was up to 160-fold more error-prone than Pol β, thereby suggesting Pol λ would be more mutagenic during long gap-filling DNA synthesis. In addition, dCTP was the preferred misincorporation for Pol λ and its N-terminal domain truncation mutants. This nucleotide preference was shown to be dependent upon the identity of the adjacent 5'-template base. Our results suggested that both Pol λ and Pol β would catalyze nucleotide incorporation with the highest combination of efficiency and accuracy when the DNA substrate contains a single-nucleotide gap. Thus, Pol λ, like Pol β, is better suited to catalyze gap-filling DNA synthesis during short-patch BER in vivo, although, Pol λ may play a role in long-patch BER.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Polymerase beta / chemistry
  • DNA Polymerase beta / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase beta / metabolism*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Deoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mutation
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Deoxyribonucleotides
  • DNA
  • DNA polymerase beta2
  • DNA Polymerase beta