We have studied the processing of O6-methylguanine (m6G)-containing oligonucleotides and N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU)-treated DNA templates by the 3′ → 5′ exonuclease of T4 DNA polymerase. In vitro biochemical analyses demonstrate that the exonuclease can remove bases opposite a defined m6G lesion. The efficiency of excision of a terminal m6G·T was similar to that of m6G·C, and both were excised as efficiently as a G·T substrate. Partitioning assays between the polymerase and exonuclease activities, performed in the presence of dNTPs, resulted in repeated incorporation and excision events opposite the m6G lesion. This idling produces dramatically less full-length product, relative to natural substrates, indicating that the 3′ → 5′ exonuclease may contribute to DNA synthesis inhibition by alkylating agents. Genetic data obtained using an in vitro herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase assay support the inefficiency of the exonuclease as a "proofreading" activity for m6G, since virtually all mutations produced by the native enzyme using MNU-treated templates were G → A transitions. Comparison of MNU dose-response curves for exonuclease-proficient and -deficient forms of T4 polymerase reveals that the exonuclease efficiently removes 50-86% of total premutagenic alkyl mispairs. We propose that idling of exonuclease-proficient polymerases at m6G lesions during repair DNA synthesis provides the biochemical explanation for cellular cytotoxicity of methylating agents.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology