Fidelity of animal cell DNA polymerases alpha and delta and of a human DNA replication complex

Basic Life Sci. 1990:52:289-97. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4615-9561-8_24.


We are investigating the mechanisms by which mutations are produced or avoided during DNA synthesis. Using in vitro fidelity assays, we have defined the error frequency and mutational specificity of the replicative animal cell DNA polymerases (alpha and delta). With DNA polymerase alpha or the four-subunit DNA polymerase alpha-DNA primase complex, neither of which contains detectable associated exonuclease activity, the fidelity of the polymerization step is low relative to spontaneous mutation rates in vivo. DNA polymerase delta is much more accurate, partly due to proofreading by the 3'----5' exonuclease activity associated with this polymerase. These fidelity studies have been extended to the replication apparatus present in extracts of human HeLa cells. The replication complex is highly accurate, suggesting that additional fidelity components are operating in the extract during bidirectional, semiconservative replication of double-stranded DNA. Nevertheless, in highly sensitive reversion assays, base substitution errors can be readily detected at frequencies greater than the estimated rate of spontaneous mutation in vivo. This suggests that fidelity components may be missing and/or that human cells depend heavily on postreplicative repair processes to correct replication errors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Polymerase II / physiology*
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Simian virus 40 / genetics


  • DNA, Viral
  • DNA Polymerase II
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase