what are the two functions of DNA polymerase?
DNA polymerase can add free nucleotides only to the 3' end of the newly forming strand. This results in elongation of the newly forming strand in a 5'-3' direction. No known DNA polymerase is able to begin a new chain (de novo). DNA polymerase can add a nucleotide only on to a pre-existing 3'- OH group, and, therefore, needs a primer at which it can add the first nucleotide. Primers consist of RNA and/or DNA bases. In DNA replication, the first two bases are always RNA, and are synthesized by another enzyme called primase. An enzyme known as a Helicase is required to unwind DNA from a double-strand structure to a single-strand structure to facilitate replication of each strand consistent with the semconservative model of DNA replication.
It is important to note that the directionality of the newly forming strand (the daughter strand) is opposite to the direction in which DNA polymerase moves along the template strand. Since DNA polymerase requires a free 3' OH group for initiation of synthesis, it can synthesize in only one direction by extending the 3' end of the preexisting nucleotide chain. Hence, DNA polymerase moves along the template strand in a 3'-5' direction, and the daughter strand is formed in a 5'-3' direction. This difference enables the resultant double-stranded DNA formed to be composed of two DNA strands which are antiparellel to each other.
Error correction is a property of some, but not all, DNA polymerases. This process corrects mistakes in newly synthesized DNA. When an incorrect base pair is recognized, DNA polymerase moves backwards by one base pair of DNA. The 3'-5' exonuclease activity of the enzyme allows the incorrect base pair to be excised (this activity is known as proof reading). Following base excision, the polymerase can re-insert the correct base and replication can continue forwards.
Various DNA polymerases are extensively used in molecular biology experiments.