Polymerase-specific differences in the DNA intermediates of frameshift mutagenesis. In vitro synthesis errors of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I and its large fragment derivative

J Mol Biol. 1989 May 20;207(2):335-53. doi: 10.1016/0022-2836(89)90258-1.


The sequences of more than 600 frameshift mutations produced as a consequence of in vitro DNA replication on an oligonucleotide-primed, single-stranded DNA template by the Escherichia coli polymerase I enzyme (PolI) or its large fragment derivative (PolLF) were compared. Four categories of mutants were found: (1) single-base deletions, (2) base substitutions, (3) multiple-base deletions and (4) complex frameshift mutations that change both the base sequence and the number of bases in a concerted mutational process. The template sequence 5'-Py-T-G-3', previously identified as a PolLF hotspot for single-base deletions opposite G, is also a hotspot for PolI. A PolI-specific warm spot for single-base deletions was identified. Among base substitutions, transitions were more frequent than transversions. Transversions were mediated by (template)G.G, (template)G.A, and (template)C.T mispairs. Multiple-base deletions were found only after PolI replication. Although each of these deletions can be explained by a misalignment mediated by directly repeated DNA sequences, deletion frequencies were often different for repeats of the same length. Both PolI and PolLF produced many complex frameshift mutants. The new sequences at the mutant sites are exactly complementary to nearby DNA sequences in the newly synthesized DNA strand. In each case, palindromic complementarity could mediate the misalignment needed to initiate the mutational process. The misaligned DNA synthesis accounts for the nucleotide changes at the mutant site and for homology that could direct realignment of the DNA onto the template. Most of the complex mutant sequences could be initiated by either intramolecular misalignments involving fold-back structures in newly synthesized DNA or by strand-switching during strand-displacement synthesis. The striking differences between the specificities of complex frameshift mutations and multiple-base deletions by PolI and PolLF identify the existence of polymerase-specific determinants that influence the frequency and specificity of misalignment-mediated frameshifts and deletions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • DNA Polymerase I / biosynthesis*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA Polymerase I