In the mid 1970s, Miroslav Radman and Evelyn Witkin proposed that Escherichia coli must encode a specialized error-prone DNA polymerase (pol) to account for the 100-fold increase in mutations accompanying induction of the SOS regulon. By the late 1980s, genetic studies showed that SOS mutagenesis required the presence of two "UV mutagenesis" genes, umuC and umuD, along with recA. Guided by the genetics, decades of biochemical studies have defined the predicted error-prone DNA polymerase as an activated complex of these three gene products, assembled as a mutasome, pol V Mut = UmuD'2C-RecA-ATP. Here, we explore the role of the β-sliding processivity clamp on the efficiency of pol V Mut-catalyzed DNA synthesis on undamaged DNA and during translesion DNA synthesis (TLS). Primer elongation efficiencies and TLS were strongly enhanced in the presence of β. The results suggest that β may have two stabilizing roles: its canonical role in tethering the pol at a primer-3'-terminus, and a possible second role in inhibiting pol V Mut's ATPase to reduce the rate of mutasome-DNA dissociation. The identification of umuC, umuD, and recA homologs in numerous strains of pathogenic bacteria and plasmids will ensure the long and productive continuation of the genetic and biochemical journey initiated by Radman and Witkin.
Keywords: DNA damage-induced mutagenesis; DNA polymerase V mutasome; Escherichia coli SOS regulon; TLS; β processivity clamp.