Effects of mutations in the Exo III motif of the herpes simplex virus DNA polymerase gene on enzyme activities, viral replication, and replication fidelity.

Abstract:

The herpes simplex virus DNA polymerase catalytic subunit, which has intrinsic polymerase and 3'-5' exonuclease activities, contains sequence motifs that are homologous to those important for 3'-5' exonuclease activity in other polymerases. The role of one such motif, Exo III, was examined in this study. Mutated polymerases containing either a single tyrosine-to-histidine change at residue 577 or this change plus an aspartic acid-to-alanine at residue 581 in the Exo III motif exhibited defective or undetectable exonuclease activity, respectively, yet retained substantial polymerase activity. Despite the defects in exonuclease activity, the mutant polymerases were able to support viral replication in transient complementation assays, albeit inefficiently. Viruses replicated via the action of these mutant polymerases exhibited substantially increased frequencies of mutants resistant to ganciclovir. Furthermore, when the Exo III mutations were incorporated into the viral genome, the resulting mutant viruses displayed only modestly defect in replication in Vero cells and exhibited substantially increased mutation frequencies. The results suggest that herpes simplex virus can replicate despite severely impaired exonuclease activity and that the 3'-5' exonuclease contributes substantially to the fidelity of viral DNA replication.

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