The fidelity of base selection by the polymerase subunit of DNA polymerase III holoenzyme

Nucleic Acids Res. 1988 Jul 25;16(14A):6465-75. doi: 10.1093/nar/16.14.6465.


In common with other DNA polymerases, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme of E. coli selects the biologically correct base pair with remarkable accuracy. DNA polymerase III is particularly useful for mechanistic studies because the polymerase and editing activities reside on separate subunits. To investigate the biochemical mechanism for base insertion fidelity, we have used a gel electrophoresis assay to measure kinetic parameters for the incorporation of correct and incorrect nucleotides by the polymerase (alpha) subunit of DNA polymerase III. As judged by this assay, base selection contributes a factor of roughly 10(4)-10(5) to the overall fidelity of genome duplication. The accuracy of base selection is determined mainly by the differential KM of the enzyme for correct vs. incorrect deoxynucleoside triphosphate. The misinsertion of G opposite template A is relatively efficient, comparable to that found for G opposite T. Based on a variety of other work, the G:A pair may require a special correction mechanism, possibly because of a syn-anti pairing approximating Watson-Crick geometry. We suggest that precise recognition of the equivalent geometry of the Watson-Crick base pairs may be the most critical feature for base selection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Kinetics
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Templates, Genetic


  • DNA Polymerase III
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase