Interlocking activities of DNA polymerase β in the base excision repair pathway

Adarsh Kumar, Andrew J. Reed, Walter J. Zahurancik, Sasha M. Daskalova, Sidney M. Hecht, Zucai Suo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Base excision repair (BER) is a major cellular pathway for DNA damage repair. During BER, DNA polymerase β (Polβ) is hypothesized to first perform gap-filling DNA synthesis by its polymerase activity and then cleave a 50-deoxyribose-5-phosphate (dRP) moiety via its dRP lyase activity. Through gel electrophoresis and kinetic analysis of partial BER reconstitution, we demonstrated that gap-filling DNA synthesis by the polymerase activity likely occurred after Schiff base formation but before β-elimination, the two chemical reactions catalyzed by the dRP lyase activity. The Schiff base formation and β-elimination intermediates were trapped by sodium borohydride reduction and identified by mass spectrometry and X-ray crystallography. Presteady-state kinetic analysis revealed that cross-linked Polβ (i.e., reduced Schiff base) exhibited a 17-fold higher polymerase efficiency than uncrosslinked Polβ. Conventional and time-resolved X-ray crystallography of cross-linked Polβ visualized important intermediates for its dRP lyase and polymerase activities, leading to a modified chemical mechanism for the dRP lyase activity. The observed interlocking enzymatic activities of Polβ allow us to propose an altered mechanism for the BER pathway, at least under the conditions employed. Plausibly, the temporally coordinated activities at the two Polβ active sites may well be the reason why Polβ has both active sites embedded in a single polypeptide chain. This proposed pathway suggests a corrected facet of BER and DNA repair, and may enable alternative chemical strategies for therapeutic intervention, as Polβ dysfunction is a key element common to several disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2118940119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 8 2022


  • DNA base excision repair pathway
  • DNA polymerase β
  • DRP lyase chemical mechanism
  • Schiff base formation
  • β-elimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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