Divalent ions attenuate DNA synthesis by human DNA polymerase α by changing the structure of the template/primer or by perturbing the polymerase reaction

Yinbo Zhang, Andrey G. Baranovskiy, Emin T. Tahirov, Tahir H Tahirov, Youri I Pavlov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


DNA polymerases (pols) are sophisticated protein machines operating in the replication, repair and recombination of genetic material in the complex environment of the cell. DNA pol reactions require at least two divalent metal ions for the phosphodiester bond formation. We explore two understudied roles of metals in pol transactions with emphasis on polα, a crucial enzyme in the initiation of DNA synthesis. We present evidence that the combination of many factors, including the structure of the template/primer, the identity of the metal, the metal turnover in the pol active site, and the influence of the concentration of nucleoside triphosphates, affect DNA pol synthesis. On the poly-dT70 template, the increase of Mg2+ concentration within the range typically used for pol reactions led to the severe loss of the ability of pol to extend DNA primers and led to a decline in DNA product sizes when extending RNA primers, simulating the effect of "counting" of the number of nucleotides in nascent primers by polα. We suggest that a high Mg2+ concentration promotes the dynamic formation of unconventional DNA structure(s), thus limiting the apparent processivity of the enzyme. Next, we found that Zn2+ supported robust polα reactions when the concentration of nucleotides was above the concentration of ions; however, there was only one nucleotide incorporation by the Klenow fragment of DNA pol I. Zn2+ drastically inhibited polα, but had no effect on Klenow, when Mg2+ was also present. It is possible that Zn2+ perturbs metal-mediated transactions in pol active site, for example affecting the step of pyrophosphate removal at the end of each pol cycle necessary for continuation of polymerization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
JournalDNA Repair
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016



  • DNA polymerase alpha
  • DNA polymerases
  • Homopolymeric runs
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Non-B DNA
  • Polymerase active site
  • Primase
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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