Independent and Stochastic Action of DNA Polymerases in the Replisome

Cell. 2017 Jun 15;169(7):1201-1213.e17. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.041.


It has been assumed that DNA synthesis by the leading- and lagging-strand polymerases in the replisome must be coordinated to avoid the formation of significant gaps in the nascent strands. Using real-time single-molecule analysis, we establish that leading- and lagging-strand DNA polymerases function independently within a single replisome. Although average rates of DNA synthesis on leading and lagging strands are similar, individual trajectories of both DNA polymerases display stochastically switchable rates of synthesis interspersed with distinct pauses. DNA unwinding by the replicative helicase may continue during such pauses, but a self-governing mechanism, where helicase speed is reduced by ∼80%, permits recoupling of polymerase to helicase. These features imply a more dynamic, kinetically discontinuous replication process, wherein contacts within the replisome are continually broken and reformed. We conclude that the stochastic behavior of replisome components ensures complete DNA duplication without requiring coordination of leading- and lagging-strand synthesis. PAPERCLIP.

Keywords: DNA polymerase; DNA replication; replication fork coordination; replication fork progression; single-molecule analysis.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Models, Biological
  • Replicon


  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • DNA Helicases