Genomes acquire lesions that can block the replication fork and some lesions must be bypassed to allow survival. The nuclear genome of flowering plants encodes two family-A DNA polymerases (DNAPs), the result of a duplication event, that are the sole DNAPs in plant organelles. These DNAPs, dubbed Plant Organellar Polymerases (POPs), resemble the Klenow fragment of bacterial DNAP I and are not related to metazoan and fungal mitochondrial DNAPs. Herein we report that replicative POPs from the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana (AtPolI) efficiently bypass one the most insidious DNA lesions, an apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) site. AtPolIs accomplish lesion bypass with high catalytic efficiency during nucleotide insertion and extension. Lesion bypass depends on two unique polymerization domain insertions evolutionary unrelated to the insertions responsible for lesion bypass by DNAP 6, an analogous lesion bypass polymerase. AtPolIs exhibit an insertion fidelity that ranks between the fidelity of replicative and lesion bypass DNAPs, moderate 3-5 exonuclease activity and strong stranddisplacement. AtPolIs are the first known example of a family-A DNAP evolved to function in both DNA replication and lesion bypass. The lesion bypass capabilities of POPs may be required to prevent replication fork collapse in plant organelles.
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