Comparative Molecular Dynamics Studies of Human DNA Polymerase η

Melek N. Ucisik, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

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High-energy ultraviolet radiation damages DNA through the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers, which stall replication. When the lesion is a thymine-thymine dimer (TTD), human DNA polymerase η (Pol η) assists in resuming the replication process by inserting nucleotides opposite the damaged site. We performed extensive molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to investigate the structural and dynamical effects of four different Pol η complexes with or without a TTD and with either dATP or dGTP as the incoming base. No major differences in the overall structures and equilibrium dynamics were detected among the four systems, suggesting that the specificity of this enzyme is due predominantly to differences in local interactions in the binding regions. Analysis of the hydrogen-bonding interactions between the enzyme and the DNA and dNTP provided molecular-level insights. Specifically, the TTD was observed to engage in more hydrogen-bonding interactions with the enzyme than its undamaged counterpart of two normal thymines. The resulting greater rigidity and specific orientation of the TTD are consistent with the experimental observation of higher processivity and overall efficiency at TTD sites than at analogous sites with two normal thymines. The similarities between the systems containing dATP and dGTP are consistent with the experimental observation of relatively low fidelity with respect to the incoming base. Moreover, Q38 and R61, two strictly conserved amino acids across the Pol η family, were found to exhibit persistent hydrogen-bonding interactions with the TTD and cation-π interactions with the free base, respectively. Thus, these simulations provide molecular level insights into the basis for the selectivity and efficiency of this enzyme, as well as the roles of the two most strictly conserved residues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2672-2681
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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