DNA Replication Molecular Biology

Types of DNA Polymerase Enzymes

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Prokaryotic polymerase

Prokaryotic polymerases exist in two forms: core polymerase and holoenzyme. Core polymerase synthesizes DNA from the DNA template but it cannot start the synthesis alone or accurately. Holoenzyme accurately initiates synthesis.

Pol I

Prokaryotic family A polymerases include the DNA polymerase I (Pol I) enzyme, which is encoded by the polA gene and ubiquitous among prokaryotes. This repair polymerase is involved in excision repair with both 3’–5′ and 5’–3′ exonuclease activity and processing of Okazaki fragments generated during lagging strand synthesis. 

Pol II

DNA polymerase II is a family B polymerase encoded by the polB gene. Pol II has 3’–5′ exonuclease activity and participates in DNA repair, replication restart to bypass lesions, and its cell presence can jump from ~30-50 copies per cell to ~200–300 during SOS induction. Pol II is also thought to be a backup to Pol III as it can interact with holoenzyme proteins and assume a high level of processivity. 


DNA polymerase III holoenzyme is the primary enzyme involved in DNA replication in E. coli and belongs to family C polymerases. It consists of three assemblies: the pol III core, the beta sliding clamp processivity factor, and the clamp-loading complex. The core consists of three subunits: α, the polymerase activity hub, ɛ, exonucleolytic proofreading, and θ, which may act as a stabilizer for ɛ. 

Pol IV

In E. coli, DNA polymerase IV (Pol IV) is an error-prone DNA polymerase involved in non-targeted mutagenesis. Pol IV is a Family Y polymerase expressed by the dinB gene that is switched on via SOS induction caused by stalled polymerases at the replication fork. 

Pol V

DNA polymerase V (Pol V) is a Y-family DNA polymerase that is involved in SOS response and trans-lesion synthesis DNA repair mechanisms. Transcription of Pol V via the umuDC genes is highly regulated to produce only Pol V when damaged DNA is present in the cell generating an SOS response. 

Polymerases β, λ, σ, μ (beta, lambda, sigma, mu) and TdT

Family X polymerases contain the well-known eukaryotic polymerase pol β (beta), as well as other eukaryotic polymerases such as Pol σ (sigma), Pol λ (lambda), Pol μ (mu), and Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT). Family X polymerases are found mainly in vertebrates, and a few are found in plants and fungi. These polymerases have highly conserved regions that include two helix-hairpin-helix motifs that are imperative in the DNA-polymerase interactions. 

Polymerases α, δ and ε (alpha, delta, and epsilon)

Pol α (alpha), Pol δ (delta), and Pol ε (epsilon) are members of Family B Polymerases and are the main polymerases involved with nuclear DNA replication. Pol α complex (pol α-DNA primase complex) consists of four subunits: the catalytic subunit POLA1, the regulatory subunit POLA2, and the small and the large primase subunits PRIM1 and PRIM2 respectively. 

Polymerases η, ι and κ (eta, iota, and kappa)

Pol η (eta), Pol ι (iota), and Pol κ (kappa), are Family Y DNA polymerases involved in the DNA repair by translesion synthesis and encoded by genes POLH, POLI and POLK respectively. Members of Family Y have five common motifs to aid in binding the substrate and primer terminus and they all include the typical right hand thumb, palm and finger domains with added domains like little finger (LF), polymerase-associated domain (PAD), or wrist. 

Polymerases Rev1 and ζ (zeta)

Pol ζ another B family polymerase, is made of two subunits Rev3, the catalytic subunit, and Rev7 (MAD2L2), which increases the catalytic function of the polymerase, and is involved in translesion synthesis. Pol ζ lacks 3′ to 5′ exonuclease activity, is unique in that it can extend primers with terminal mismatches. Rev1 has three regions of interest in the BRCT domain, ubiquitin-binding domain, and C-terminal domain and has dCMP transferase ability, which adds deoxycytidine opposite lesions that would stall replicative polymerases Pol δ and Pol ε. These stalled polymerases activate ubiquitin complexes that in turn disassociate replication polymerases and recruit Pol ζ and Rev1. Together Pol ζ and Rev1 add deoxycytidine and Pol ζ extends past the lesion. Through a yet undetermined process, Pol ζ disassociates and replication polymerases re-associate and continue replication. Pol ζ and Rev1 are not required for replication, but loss of REV3 gene in budding yeast can cause increased sensitivity to DNA-damaging agents due to collapse of replication forks where replication polymerases have stalled.

Taq DNA polymerase

  • Taq polymerase is a thermostable type of DNA polymerase 1 that was initially separated from a thermophilic eubacterial known as Thermus aquaticus.
  • It is abbreviated as Taq or Taq pol.
  • It is commonly used in Polymerase Chain Reaction to amplify short strands of DNA.

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