Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Molecular Determinants of Human DNA Polymerase eta Fidelity
by Suarez, Samuel Charles, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2014, 191; 3584268
Abstract (Summary)

DNA damage is a ubiquitous challenge to replication in cells, as damage causes replicative polymerase stalling. However, once DNA has been unwound at the replication fork, replication must proceed in the presence of damage to prevent more deleterious and almost assuredly mutagenic consequences. Alleviation of replicative polymerase stalling is accomplished by specialized DNA polymerases that can synthesize across from DNA lesions using the damage as a template, a process termed translesion synthesis (TLS). DNA polymerase η pol η is the best understood of these polymerases, and lack of pol η synthesis activity in the human cancer prone syndrome Xeroderma pigmentosum variant (XPV) leads to cancer susceptibility upon sunlight exposure. XPV cells display higher mutation rates when exposed to UV light. This prevention of mutagenesis occurs despite pol η having fidelity that is thousands of fold lower than replicative polymerases when copying both damaged and undamaged DNA. Pol η has been implicated in replication past the UV induced cis-syn cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPD) and the oxidative lesion 7,8-dihydro-8-oxo-guanine (8-oxoG) in cells. We sought to better understand the molecular basis of efficient but moderate to low fidelity bypass by pol η. We have examined polymerase properties as well as replication fidelity opposite these 2 lesions and with undamaged DNA.

To this end, we have created and purified a set of single amino acid substitution mutants in and surrounding the active site of the protein, utilizing the truncated catalytic core of the protein as a model. We assessed these mutants for overall synthesis activity as well as bypass fidelity opposite both T-T CPD and 8-oxoG. Our results show that several residues are critical for polymerase function, and altering these amino acids have multiple effects on polymerase properties. The R55A mutant abolishes polymerase activity while the Q38A, Y52E, and R61A mutants display altered fidelities. Y52E increased fidelity at both lesions and undamaged DNA, while R61A increased fidelity when copying T-T CPD. Also notable, Q38A increased fidelity opposite 8-oxoG, while it decreased fidelity opposite a T-T CPD.

One proposed means of increasing pol η fidelity is interaction with replication accessory proteins that assist in replication at the replication fork. We purified the full-length form of pol η, containing known protein:protein interaction domains in the C-terminus, and examined the effect of adding RPA to the bypass reaction. We saw no change in fidelity when examining fidelity opposite T-T CPD or 8-oxoG. We sought to confirm our results by also expressing two previously identified mutants with specific fidelity signatures, Q38A and Y52E. These full-length mutants recapitulated the fidelity effects seen in the truncated mutants when copying damaged DNA, and these fidelity signatures were unchanged with the addition of RPA.

Taken together, these results indicate that the major determinant of pol η fidelity is the active site structure of the protein. The active site sequence is robust and certain amino acids play a critical role in the molecular mechanism of synthesis by the enzyme. Further clues as to the effects of altered polymerase function could be addressed by experiments expressing these mutant proteins in cells lacking pol η. Additional investigation is necessary to recapitulate a more complete set of proteins with known functions in TLS, as interaction with other proteins could possibly alter fidelity. This work emphasizes that TLS is a damage tolerance process that could potentially cause mutations if perturbed. In order to avoid the certainly mutagenic consequences of strand breaks, cells utilize damage tolerance at the cost of potential mutagenesis. This balance between tolerance and mutagenesis has implications for multiple disease processes and human health.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McCulloch, Scott D.
School: North Carolina State University
Department: Toxicology(
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-B 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Molecular biology, Toxicology, Surgery, Biochemistry
Keywords: DNA damage, DNA polymerase eta, DNA polymerase fidelity, DNA replication, Translesion synthesis, mutagenesis
Publication Number: 3584268
ISBN: 978-1-303-99738-9
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