Highly frequent frameshift DNA synthesis by human DNA polymerase μ

Y. Zhang, X. Wu, F. Yuan, Z. Xie, Z. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


DNA polymerase μ (Polμ) is a newly identified member of the polymerase X family. The biological function of Polμ is not known, although it has been speculated that human Polμ may be a somatic hypermutation polymerase. To help understand the in vivo function of human Polμ, we have performed in vitro biochemical analyses of the purified polymerase. Unlike any other DNA polymerases studied thus far, human Polμ catalyzed frameshift DNA synthesis with an unprecedentedly high frequency. In the sequence contexts examined, -1 deletion occurred as the predominant DNA synthesis mechanism opposite the single-nucleotide repeat sequences AA, GG, TT, and CC in the template. Thus, the fidelity of DNA synthesis by human Polμ was largely dictated by the sequence context. Human Polμ was able to efficiently extend mismatched bases mainly by a frameshift synthesis mechanism. With the primer ends, containing up to four mismatches, examined, human Polμ effectively realigned the primer to achieve annealing with a microhomology region in the template several nucleotides downstream. As a result, human Polμ promoted microhomology search and microhomology pairing between the primer and the template strands of DNA. These results show that human Polμ is much more prone to cause frameshift mutations than base substitutions. The biochemical properties of human Polμ suggest a function in nonhomologous end joining and V(D)J recombination through its microhomology searching and pairing activities but do not support a function in somatic hypermutation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7995-8006
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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