This study describes the first complete in vitro error specificity analysis of a mutator DNA polymerase that is altered in a residue not predicted to contact either the DNA or dNTP substrate. We examined this mutator form of polymerase β (Y265C) in order to elucidate the critical role tyrosine 265 plays in the accuracy of DNA synthesis. Our results demonstrate that an increase in both frame shift errors in homonucleotide repeat sequences and base substitution errors contribute nearly equally to the Y265C mutator phenotype. The models described for production of these errors, primer/template misalignment and base misincorporation, respectively, are distinctly different, suggesting the Y265C alteration affects discrimination against both types of error production pathways. In addition, Y265C displays a 530-fold increase in multiple errors within the 203-base pair target region examined, relative to that of wild type. Processivity studies revealed that Y265C retains the near distributive nature of DNA synthesis characteristic of the wild type polymerase β. Therefore, multiple errors exhibited by Y265C most likely result from independent polymerase binding events. Localization of tyrosine 265 in the X-ray crystallographic structure suggests this residue may play a role in mediating a conformational change of the polymerase [Pelletier, H., et al. (1996) Biochemistry 35, 12742-12761]. A conformational change is predicted to enhance the accuracy of DNA synthesis by imposing an induced fit selection against premutational intermediates. The observed loss of discrimination against both misalignment-mediated and misincorporation- mediated errors produced by polymerase Y265C is consistent with such a model.
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