Discrimination against ribonucleotides by DNA polymerases is critical to preserve DNA integrity. For many DNA polymerases, including those of the Y family, rNTP discrimination has been attributed to steric clashes between a residue near the active site, the steric gate, and the 2'-hydroxyl of the incoming rNTP. Here we used hydrogen/deuterium exchange (HDX) mass spectrometry (MS) to probe the effects of the steric gate in the Y-family DNA polymerases Escherichia coli DinB and human DNA pol κ. Formation of a ternary complex with a G:dCTP base pair in the active site resulted in slower hydrogen exchange relative to a ternary complex with G:rCTP in the active site. The protection from exchange was localized to regions both distal and proximal to the active site, suggesting that DinB and DNA pol κ adopt different conformations depending on the sugar of the incoming nucleotide. In contrast, when the respective steric gate residues were mutated to alanine, the differences in HDX between the dNTP- and rNTP-bound ternary complexes were attenuated such that for DinB(F13A) and pol κ(Y112A), ternary complexes with either G:dCTP or G:rCTP base pairs had similar HDX profiles. Furthermore, the HDX in these ternary complexes resembled that of the rCTP-bound state rather than the dCTP-bound state of the wild-type enzymes. Primer extension assays confirmed that DinB(F13A) and pol κ(Y112A) do not discriminate against rNTPs to the same extent as the wild-type enzymes. Our observations indicate that the steric gate is crucial for rNTP discrimination because of its role in specifically promoting a dNTP-induced conformational change and that rNTP discrimination occurs in a relatively closed state of the polymerases.
Keywords: DNA replication; Enzyme specificity; Hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry; Nucleotide selection; Ribonucleotide.
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