Modeling DNA polymerase μ motions: subtle transitions before chemistry

Biophys J. 2010 Nov 17;99(10):3463-72. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.09.056.


To investigate whether an open-to-closed transition before the chemical step and induced-fit mechanism exist in DNA polymerase μ (pol μ), we analyze a series of molecular-dynamics simulations with and without the incoming nucleotide in various forms, including mutant systems, based on pol μ's crystal ternary structure. Our simulations capture no significant large-scale motion in either the DNA or the protein domains of pol μ. However, subtle residue motions can be distinguished, specifically of His(329) and Asp(330) to assemble in pol μ's active site, and of Gln(440) and Glu(443) to help accommodate the incoming nucleotide. Mutant simulations capture a DNA frameshift pairing and indicate the importance of Arg(444) and Arg(447) in stacking with the DNA template, and of Arg(448) and Gln(440) in helping to stabilize the position of both the DNA template and the incoming nucleotide. Although limited sampling in the molecular-dynamics simulations cannot be ruled out, our studies suggest an absence of a large-scale motion in pol μ. Together with the known crystallization difficulties of capturing the open form of pol μ, our studies also raise the possibility that a well-defined open form may not exist. Moreover, we suggest that residues Arg(448) and Gln(440) may be crucial for preventing insertion frameshift errors in pol μ.

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 Sequence
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Motion*
  • Mutant Proteins / chemistry
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Nucleotides / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Templates, Genetic


  • Amino Acids
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Nucleotides
  • DNA
  • DNA polymerase mu
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Magnesium