Molecular consequences of the loss of 3' to 5' exonuclease activity of DNA polymerases delta and epsilon

Rina Bhagat, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The DNA replication polymerases δ and ϵ have an inherent proofreading mechanism in the form of a 3'→5' exonuclease. Upon recognition of errant deoxynucleotide incorporation into DNA, the nascent primer terminus is partitioned to the exonuclease active site where the incorrectly paired nucleotide is excised before resumption of polymerization. The goal of this project was to identify the cellular and molecular consequences of an exonuclease deficiency. The proofreading capability of model system MEFs with EXOII mutations was abolished without altering polymerase function. It was hypothesized that 3'→5' exonucleases of polymerases δ and ϵ are critical for prevention of replication stress and important for sensitization to nucleoside analogs. To test this hypothesis, two aims were formulated: Determine the effect of the exonuclease active site mutation on replication related molecular signaling and identify the molecular consequences of an exonuclease deficiency when replication is challenged with nucleoside analogs. Via cell cycle studies it was determined that larger populations of exonuclease deficient cells are in the S-phase. There was an increase in levels of replication proteins, cell population growth and DNA synthesis capacity without alteration in cell cycle progression. These findings led to studies of proteins involved in checkpoint activation and DNA damage sensing. Finally, collective modifications at the level of DNA replication likely affect the strand integrity of DNA at the chromosomal level. Gemcitabine, a DNA directed nucleoside analog is a substrate of polymerases δ and ϵ and exploits replication to become incorporated into DNA. Though accumulation of gemcitabine triphosphate was similar in all cell types, incorporation into DNA and rates of DNA synthesis were increased in exonuclease defective cells and were not consistent with clonogenic survival. This led to molecular signaling investigations which demonstrated an increase in S-phase cells and activation of a DNA damage response upon gemcitabine treatment. Collectively, these data indicate that the loss of exonuclease results in a replication stress response that is likely required to employ other repair mechanisms to remove unexcised mismatches introduced into DNA during replication. When challenged with nucleoside analogs, this ongoing stress response coupled with repair serves as a resistance mechanism to cell death.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Pharmacology

Recommended Citation

Bhagat, Rina, "Molecular consequences of the loss of 3' to 5' exonuclease activity of DNA polymerases delta and epsilon" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3358124.