Eukaryotic DNA polymerases in DNA replication and DNA repair

Chromosoma. 1998 Sep;107(4):218-27. doi: 10.1007/s004120050300.


DNA polymerases carry out a large variety of synthetic transactions during DNA replication, DNA recombination and DNA repair. Substrates for DNA polymerases vary from single nucleotide gaps to kilobase size gaps and from relatively simple gapped structures to complex replication forks in which two strands need to be replicated simultaneously. Consequently, one would expect the cell to have developed a well-defined set of DNA polymerases with each one uniquely adapted for a specific pathway. And to some degree this turns out to be the case. However, in addition we seem to find a large degree of cross-functionality of DNA polymerases in these different pathways. DNA polymerase alpha is almost exclusively required for the initiation of DNA replication and the priming of Okazaki fragments during elongation. In most organisms no specific repair role beyond that of checkpoint control has been assigned to this enzyme. DNA polymerase delta functions as a dimer and, therefore, may be responsible for both leading and lagging strand DNA replication. In addition, this enzyme is required for mismatch repair and, together with DNA polymerase zeta, for mutagenesis. The function of DNA polymerase epsilon in DNA replication may be restricted to that of Okazaki fragment maturation. In contrast, either polymerase delta or epsilon suffices for the repair of UV-induced damage. The role of DNA polymerase beta in base-excision repair is well established for mammalian systems, but in yeast, DNA polymerase delta appears to fulfill that function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Fungal / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / classification
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / enzymology*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics


  • DNA, Fungal
  • Fungal Proteins
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase