In crystallo observation of three metal ion promoted DNA polymerase misincorporation

Nat Commun. 2022 Apr 29;13(1):2346. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-30005-3.


Error-free replication of DNA is essential for life. Despite the proofreading capability of several polymerases, intrinsic polymerase fidelity is in general much higher than what base-pairing energies can provide. Although researchers have investigated this long-standing question with kinetics, structural determination, and computational simulations, the structural factors that dictate polymerase fidelity are not fully resolved. Time-resolved crystallography has elucidated correct nucleotide incorporation and established a three-metal-ion-dependent catalytic mechanism for polymerases. Using X-ray time-resolved crystallography, we visualize the complete DNA misincorporation process catalyzed by DNA polymerase η. The resulting molecular snapshots suggest primer 3´-OH alignment mediated by A-site metal ion binding is the key step in substrate discrimination. Moreover, we observe that C-site metal ion binding preceded the nucleotidyl transfer reaction and demonstrate that the C-site metal ion is strictly required for misincorporation. Our results highlight the essential but separate roles of the three metal ions in DNA synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase* / metabolism
  • Ions
  • Metals* / chemistry


  • Ions
  • Metals
  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase