The common A467T mutation in the human mitochondrial DNA polymerase (POLG) compromises catalytic efficiency and interaction with the accessory subunit.

Abstract:

Among the nearly 50 disease mutations in the gene for the catalytic subunit of human DNA polymerase gamma, POLG, the A467T substitution is the most common and has been found in 0.6% of the Belgian population. The A467T mutation is associated with a wide range of mitochondrial disorders, including Alpers syndrome, juvenile spinocerebellar ataxia-epilepsy syndrome, and progressive external ophthalmoplegia, each with vastly different clinical presentations, tissue specificities, and ages of onset. The A467T mutant enzyme possesses only 4% of wild-type DNA polymerase activity, and the catalytic defect is manifest primarily through a 6-fold reduction in kcat with minimal effect on exonuclease function. Human DNA polymerase gamma (pol gamma) requires association of a 55-kDa accessory subunit for enhanced DNA binding and highly processive DNA synthesis. However, the A467T mutant enzyme failed to interact with and was not stimulated by the accessory subunit, as judged by processivity, heat inactivation, and N-ethylmaleimide protection assays in vitro. Thermolysin digestion and immunoprecipitation experiments further indicate weak association of the subunits for A467T pol gamma. This is the first example of a mutation in POLG that disrupts physical association of the pol gamma subunits. We propose that reduced polymerase activity and loss of accessory subunit interaction are responsible for the depletion and deletion of mitochondrial DNA observed in patients with this POLG mutation.

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