Accuracy, lesion bypass, strand displacement and translocation by DNA polymerases

Thomas A. Steitz, Y. Whitney Yin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The structures of DNA polymerases from different families show common features and significant differences that shed light on the ability of these enzymes to accurately copy DNA and translocate. The structure of a B family DNA polymerase from phage RB69 exhibits an active-site closing conformational change in the fingers domain upon forming a ternary complex with primer template in deoxynucleoside triphosphate. The rotation of the fingers domain α-helices by 60° upon dNTP binding is analogous to the changes seen in other families of polymerases. When the 3′ terminus is bound to the editing 3′ exonuclease active site, the orientation of the DNA helix axis changes by 40° and the thumb domain re-orients with the DNA. Structures of substrate and product complexes of T7 RNA polymerase, a structural homologue of T7 DNA polymerase, show that family polymerases use the rotation conformational change of the fingers domain to translocate down the DNA. The fingers opening rotation that results in translocation is powered by the release of the product pyrophosphate and also enables the Pol I family polymerases to function as a helicase in displacing the downstream non-template strand from the template strand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1441
StatePublished - Jan 29 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA polymerase
  • Protein structure
  • RNA polymerase
  • Replication
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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