Published on Nov. 23, 2010 in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A volume 107.
PubMed ID: 21059936
All known DNA and RNA polymerases catalyze the formation of phosphodiester bonds in a 5' to 3' direction, suggesting this property is a fundamental feature of maintaining and dispersing genetic information. The tRNA(His) guanylyltransferase (Thg1) is a member of a unique enzyme family whose members catalyze an unprecedented reaction in biology: 3'-5' addition of nucleotides to nucleic acid substrates. The 2.3-Å crystal structure of human THG1 (hTHG1) reported here shows that, despite the lack of sequence similarity, hTHG1 shares unexpected structural homology with canonical 5'-3' DNA polymerases and adenylyl/guanylyl cyclases, two enzyme families known to use a two-metal-ion mechanism for catalysis. The ability of the same structural architecture to catalyze both 5'-3' and 3'-5' reactions raises important questions concerning selection of the 5'-3' mechanism during the evolution of nucleotide polymerases.