DNA bypass polymerases are utilized to transit bulky DNA lesions during replication, but the process frequently causes mutations. The structural origins of mutagenic versus high fidelity replication in lesion bypass is therefore of fundamental interest. As model systems, we investigated the molecular basis of the experimentally observed essentially faithful bypass of the guanine 10 S-(+)-trans-anti-benzo[a]pyrene-N2- dG adduct by the Y-family human DNA polymerase κ, and the observed blockage of pol κ produced by the adenine 10S-(+)- trans-anti-benzo[a]pyrene-N2-dA adduct. These lesions are derived from the most tumorigenic metabolite of the ubiquitous cancer-causing pollutant, benzo[a]pyrene. We compare our results for the dG adduct with our earlier studies for the pol κ archaeal homolog Dpo4, which processes the same lesion in an error-prone manner. Molecular modeling, molecular mechanics calculations and molecular dynamics simulations were utilized. Our results show that the pol κ N-clasp is a key structural feature that accounts for the dA adduct blockage and the near-error-free bypass of the dG lesion. Absence of the N-clasp in Dpo4 explains the error-prone processing of the same lesion by this enzyme. Thus, our studies elucidate structure-function relationships in the fidelity of lesion bypass.
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