Spectroscopic analysis of polymerization and exonuclease proofreading by a high-fidelity DNA polymerase during translesion DNA synthesis

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Jan;1834(1):34-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2012.08.019. Epub 2012 Aug 28.


High fidelity DNA polymerases maintain genomic fidelity through a series of kinetic steps that include nucleotide binding, conformational changes, phosphoryl transfer, polymerase translocation, and nucleotide excision. Developing a comprehensive understanding of how these steps are coordinated during correct and pro-mutagenic DNA synthesis has been hindered due to lack of spectroscopic nucleotides that function as efficient polymerase substrates. This report describes the application of a non-natural nucleotide designated 5-naphthyl-indole-2'-deoxyribose triphosphate which behaves as a fluorogenic substrate to monitor nucleotide incorporation and excision during the replication of normal DNA versus two distinct DNA lesions (cyclobutane thymine dimer and an abasic site). Transient fluorescence and rapid-chemical quench experiments demonstrate that the rate constants for nucleotide incorporation vary as a function of DNA lesion. These differences indicate that the non-natural nucleotide can function as a spectroscopic probe to distinguish between normal versus translesion DNA synthesis. Studies using wild-type DNA polymerase reveal the presence of a fluorescence recovery phase that corresponds to the formation of a pre-excision complex that precedes hydrolytic excision of the non-natural nucleotide. Rate constants for the formation of this pre-excision complex are dependent upon the DNA lesion, and this suggests that the mechanism of exonuclease proofreading is regulated by the nature of the formed mispair. Finally, spectroscopic evidence confirms that exonuclease proofreading competes with polymerase translocation. Collectively, this work provides the first demonstration for a non-natural nucleotide that functions as a spectroscopic probe to study the coordinated efforts of polymerization and exonuclease proofreading during correct and translesion DNA synthesis.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage T4 / enzymology*
  • DNA / biosynthesis*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Exonucleases / chemistry*
  • Exonucleases / genetics
  • Exonucleases / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • Viral Proteins
  • gene 43 protein, Enterobacteria phage T4
  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Exonucleases