Exonuclease 1 preferentially repairs mismatches generated by DNA polymerase α.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae EXO1 gene encodes a 5' exonuclease that participates in mismatch repair (MMR) of DNA replication errors. Deleting EXO1 was previously shown to increase mutation rates to a greater extent when combined with a mutator variant (pol3-L612M) of the lagging strand replicase, DNA polymerase δ (Pol δ), than when combined with a mutator variant (pol2-M644G) of the leading strand replicase, DNA polymerase ɛ (Pol ɛ). Here we confirm that result, and extend the approach to examine the effect of deleting EXO1 in a mutator variant (pol1-L868M) of Pol α, the proofreading-deficient and least accurate of the three nuclear replicases that is responsible for initiating Okazaki fragment synthesis. We find that deleting EXO1 increases the mutation rate in the Pol α mutator strain to a significantly greater extent than in the Pol δ or Pol ɛ mutator strains, thereby preferentially reducing the efficiency of MMR of replication errors generated by Pol α. Because these mismatches are closer to the 5' ends of Okazaki fragments than are mismatches made by Pol δ or Pol ɛ, the results not only support the previous suggestion that Exo1 preferentially excises lagging strand replication errors during mismatch repair, they further imply that the 5' ends serve as entry points for 5' excision of replication errors made by Pol α, and possibly as strand discrimination signals for MMR. Nonetheless, mutation rates in the Pol α mutator strain are 5- to 25-fold lower in an exo1Δ strain as compared to an msh2Δ strain completely lacking MMR, indicating that in the absence of Exo1, most replication errors made by Pol α can still be removed in an Msh2-dependent manner by other nucleases and/or by strand displacement.