Clustering of Alpers disease mutations and catalytic defects in biochemical variants reveal new features of molecular mechanism of the human mitochondrial replicase, Pol γ

Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Nov;39(21):9072-84. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr618. Epub 2011 Aug 8.


Mutations in Pol γ represent a major cause of human mitochondrial diseases, especially those affecting the nervous system in adults and in children. Recessive mutations in Pol γ represent nearly half of those reported to date, and they are nearly uniformly distributed along the length of the POLG1 gene (Human DNA Polymerase gamma Mutation Database); the majority of them are linked to the most severe form of POLG syndrome, Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome. In this report, we assess the structure-function relationships for recessive disease mutations by reviewing existing biochemical data on site-directed mutagenesis of the human, Drosophila and yeast Pol γs, and their homologs from the family A DNA polymerase group. We do so in the context of a molecular model of Pol γ in complex with primer-template DNA, which we have developed based upon the recently solved crystal structure of the apoenzyme form. We present evidence that recessive mutations cluster within five distinct functional modules in the catalytic core of Pol γ. Our results suggest that cluster prediction can be used as a diagnosis-supporting tool to evaluate the pathogenic role of new Pol γ variants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biocatalysis
  • Catalytic Domain / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Diffuse Cerebral Sclerosis of Schilder / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mutation*


  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • POLG protein, human