Comprehensive analysis of DNA polymerase III α subunits and their homologs in bacterial genomes

Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 Feb;42(3):1393-413. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt900. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


The analysis of ∼ 2000 bacterial genomes revealed that they all, without a single exception, encode one or more DNA polymerase III α-subunit (PolIIIα) homologs. Classified into C-family of DNA polymerases they come in two major forms, PolC and DnaE, related by ancient duplication. While PolC represents an evolutionary compact group, DnaE can be further subdivided into at least three groups (DnaE1-3). We performed an extensive analysis of various sequence, structure and surface properties of all four polymerase groups. Our analysis suggests a specific evolutionary pathway leading to PolC and DnaE from the last common ancestor and reveals important differences between extant polymerase groups. Among them, DnaE1 and PolC show the highest conservation of the analyzed properties. DnaE3 polymerases apparently represent an 'impaired' version of DnaE1. Nonessential DnaE2 polymerases, typical for oxygen-using bacteria with large GC-rich genomes, have a number of features in common with DnaE3 polymerases. The analysis of polymerase distribution in genomes revealed three major combinations: DnaE1 either alone or accompanied by one or more DnaE2s, PolC + DnaE3 and PolC + DnaE1. The first two combinations are present in Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, respectively. The third one (PolC + DnaE1), found in Clostridia, represents a novel, so far experimentally uncharacterized, set.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / classification
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • DNA Polymerase III / chemistry*
  • DNA Polymerase III / classification
  • DNA Polymerase III / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / classification
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Static Electricity


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA polymerase III, alpha subunit
  • PolC protein, bacteria
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase