Temperature effect on polymerase fidelity

Yuan Xue, Ido Braslavsky, Stephen R. Quake*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The discovery of extremophiles helped enable the development of groundbreaking technology such as PCR. Temperature variation is often an essential step of these technology platforms, but the effect of temperature on the error rate of polymerases from different origins is underexplored. Here, we applied high-throughput sequencing to profile the error rates of DNA polymerases from psychrophilic, mesophilic, and thermophilic origins with single-molecule resolution. We found that the reaction temperature substantially increases substitution and deletion error rates of psychrophilic and mesophilic DNA polymerases. Our motif analysis shows that the substitution error profiles cluster according to phylogenetic similarity of polymerases, not the reaction temperature, thus suggesting that the reaction temperature increases the global error rate of polymerases independent of the sequence context. Intriguingly, we also found that the DNA polymerase I of psychrophilic bacteria exhibits higher polymerization activity than its mesophilic ortholog across all temperature ranges, including down to -19 ° C, which is well below the freezing temperature of water. Our results provide a useful reference for how the reaction temperature, a crucial parameter of biochemistry, can affect DNA polymerase fidelity in organisms adapted to a wide range of thermal environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number101270
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021

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