What is DNA Polymerase II?


DNA polymerase II (Pol II), also known as DNA polymerase beta, is an enzyme involved in DNA replication and repair processes. It belongs to the family of DNA polymerases, which are responsible for synthesizing new DNA strands by adding nucleotides to the growing chain. Pol II is found in many organisms, including bacteria and eukaryotes, and plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the genome.

Structure of DNA Polymerase II

Pol II is a multi-subunit enzyme complex, consisting of several protein subunits that work together to carry out its functions. The exact composition of Pol II may vary across different organisms, but it generally consists of a catalytic subunit and accessory subunits.

Catalytic subunit

The catalytic subunit of Pol II is responsible for the actual synthesis of DNA. It possesses the enzymatic activity required to add nucleotides to the growing DNA strand. The catalytic subunit contains a polymerase domain, which houses the active site responsible for catalyzing the addition of nucleotides, and a 3′ to 5′ exonuclease domain, which enables proofreading and editing of the newly synthesized DNA strand.

Accessory subunits

Accessory subunits of Pol II provide structural support and enhance the enzymatic activity of the catalytic subunit. These subunits help in stabilizing the DNA template and the incoming nucleotides, as well as in facilitating the movement of the polymerase along the DNA strand during replication or repair.

DNA Replication with Pol II

During DNA replication, Pol II plays a crucial role in synthesizing the lagging strand. The lagging strand is synthesized in short fragments called Okazaki fragments, which are later joined together by another enzyme called DNA ligase. Here are the steps involved in DNA replication with Pol II:

1. Initiation

The process of DNA replication begins with the initiation step, where a specialized protein called a helicase unwinds the double-stranded DNA molecule. This creates a replication fork, where the two strands of DNA separate.

2. Priming

Once the DNA strands are separated, an RNA primer is synthesized by an enzyme called primase. The RNA primer provides a starting point for DNA synthesis by Pol II.

3. Elongation

Pol II starts adding nucleotides to the RNA primer, synthesizing the new DNA strand in the 5′ to 3′ direction. As it moves along the DNA template, it continues adding nucleotides complementary to the template strand.

4. Proofreading and Editing

During the synthesis of the new DNA strand, Pol II simultaneously proofreads and edits the newly synthesized DNA. The 3′ to 5′ exonuclease domain of the catalytic subunit allows Pol II to remove any incorrect nucleotides that may have been added, thereby maintaining the accuracy of DNA replication.

5. Termination

Once the entire DNA molecule is replicated, Pol II dissociates from the DNA template, and the newly synthesized DNA strands are separated from each other.

DNA Repair with Pol II

In addition to DNA replication, Pol II is also involved in DNA repair processes. DNA damage can occur due to various factors, such as exposure to harmful chemicals or radiation. Pol II helps in repairing the damaged DNA by removing the damaged nucleotides and filling in the gaps with new nucleotides.

Base Excision Repair

One of the DNA repair mechanisms involving Pol II is base excision repair (BER). In BER, Pol II recognizes and removes damaged bases from the DNA strand, creating a gap. It then fills in the gap with the correct nucleotides, using the undamaged DNA strand as a template.

Nucleotide Excision Repair

Another DNA repair mechanism involving Pol II is nucleotide excision repair (NER). NER is responsible for repairing bulky DNA lesions, such as those caused by UV radiation. Pol II, along with other proteins, recognizes and removes the damaged section of DNA and replaces it with the correct nucleotides.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What other DNA polymerases are involved in DNA replication?

There are several other DNA polymerases involved in DNA replication, such as DNA polymerase I, DNA polymerase III, and DNA polymerase IV.

2. How is Pol II different from other DNA polymerases?

Pol II differs from other DNA polymerases in terms of its structure, function, and specificity. It has unique accessory subunits and enzymatic properties that distinguish it from other polymerases.

3. Can Pol II repair all types of DNA damage?

No, Pol II is specialized in repairing specific types of DNA damage. Different DNA polymerases are involved in different DNA repair mechanisms, depending on the type of damage.

4. What happens if Pol II makes a mistake during DNA replication?

If Pol II makes a mistake during DNA replication, it has a proofreading mechanism to remove the incorrect nucleotides. If the mistake is not corrected, it can lead to genetic mutations.

5. Can Pol II be targeted for drug development?

Yes, Pol II is considered a potential target for developing drugs that can inhibit its activity. Inhibiting Pol II can disrupt DNA replication or repair processes, making it a potential strategy for treating certain diseases, including cancer.

6. Is Pol II involved in other cellular processes?

Pol II primarily functions in DNA replication and repair, but it may also have additional roles in other cellular processes. Research is ongoing to explore its potential involvement in various cellular functions.

7. Are there any diseases associated with Pol II mutations?

Pol II mutations can lead to various genetic disorders, including certain types of cancer. Understanding the role of Pol II mutations in disease development is an active area of research.


DNA polymerase II (Pol II) is an essential enzyme involved in DNA replication and repair. It catalyzes the synthesis of new DNA strands and ensures the accuracy and integrity of the genetic material. Pol II plays a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the genome and is a subject of ongoing research to understand its functions in detail and explore its potential therapeutic applications.

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