Kinetics and specificity of human mitochondrial DNA polymerase gamma and HIV-1 reverse transcriptase
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The human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome must be faithfully maintained by the mitochondrial DNA replication machinery. Deficiencies in mtDNA maintenance result in the accumulation of mutations and deletions, which have been associated with a number of neuromuscular degenerative disorders including, mtDNA depletion syndrome, Alpers syndrome, progressive external opthalmoplegia (PEO), and sensory ataxic neuropathy, dysarthria, and opthalmoparesis (SANDO). The mtDNA replication machinery is comprised of a nuclearly-encoded DNA polymerase gamma (Pol γ), single-stranded DNA binding protein (mtSSB), and a hexameric mtDNA helicase. In this work, we employed quantitative pre-steady state kinetic techniques to establish the mechanisms responsible for the replication of the human mitochondrial DNA by Pol γ and explored the effects of point mutations that are observed in heritable diseases. With our biochemical characterization of mutants of Pol γ, we have shown unique characteristics that would lead to profound physiological consequences over time. Additionally, we have made significant progress towards reconstitution of the mitochondrial DNA replisome by monitoring DNA polymerization that is dependent on helicase unwinding of double stranded DNA. Overall, this work provides a better understanding of the mechanism of mtDNA replication and has important implications toward understanding the role of mitochondrial DNA replication in mitochondrial disease, ageing and cancer. In addition to the work on the mtDNA replisome, we have applied pre-steady state kinetic techniques to better understand the mechanism of RNA-dependent DNA polymerization by HIV reverse transcriptase (HIV-RT). This enzyme is responsible for the replication of the viral genome in HIV and is a common target for anti-HIV drugs. We have characterized the role of enzyme conformational changes in the kinetics of incorporation of correct nucleotide and the Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor (NRTI) AZT by wild-type enzyme, as well as a mutant with clinical resistance to AZT. This work provides a better understanding of the complete mechanism of RNA-dependent DNA polymerization, the changes in the mechanism in the presence of inhibitor and the development of resistance to this nucleoside analog; and thereby this work contributes to the long-term goal of designing more effective drugs that can possibly deter resistance and be used successfully for treatment of HIV.