Prokaryotic DNA Replication - Elongation


Once priming is complete, DNA polymerase III holoenzyme is loaded into the DNA and replication begins. The catalytic mechanism of DNA polymerase III involves the use of two metal ions in the active site, and a region in the active site that can discriminate between deoxyribonucleotides and ribonucleotides. The metal ions are general divalent cations that help the 3' OH initiate a nucleophilic attack onto the alpha phosphate of the deoxyribonucleotide and orient and stabilize the negatively charged triphosphate on the deoxyribonucleotide. Nucleophilic attack by the 3' OH on the alpha phosphate releases pyrophosphate, which is then subsequently hydrolyzed (by inorganic phosphatase) into two phosphates. This hydrolysis drives DNA synthesis to completion.

Furthermore, DNA polymerase III must be able to distinguish between correctly paired bases and incorrectly paired bases. This is accomplished by distinguishing Watson-Crick base pairs through the use of an active site pocket that is complementary in shape to the structure of correctly paired nucleotides. This pocket has a tyrosine residue that is able to form van der Waals interactions with the correctly paired nucleotide. In addition, dsDNA (double stranded DNA) in the active site has a wider major groove and shallower minor groove that permits the formation of hydrogen bonds with the third nitrogen of purine bases and the second oxygen of pyrimidine bases. Finally, the active site makes extensive hydrogen bonds with the DNA backbone. These interactions result in the DNA polymerase III closing around a correctly paired base. If a base is inserted and incorrectly paired, these interactions could not occur due to disruptions in hydrogen bonding and van der Waals interactions.

DNA is read in the 3' → 5' direction, therefore, nucleotides are synthesized (or attached to the template strand) in the 5' → 3' direction. However, one of the parent strands of DNA is 3' → 5' while the other is 5' → 3'. To solve this, replication occurs in opposite directions. Heading towards the replication fork, the leading strand is synthesized in a continuous fashion, only requiring one primer. On the other hand, the lagging strand, heading away from the replication fork, is synthesized in a series of short fragments known as Okazaki fragments, consequently requiring many primers. The RNA primers of Okazaki fragments are subsequently degraded by RNAse H and DNA Polymerase I (exonuclease), and the gaps (or nicks) are filled with deoxyribonucleotides and sealed by the enzyme ligase.

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