Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author's final published version in Nature Communications, Volume 14, Issue 1, December 2023, Article number 8501.

The published version is available at

Copyright © the Author(s) 2023


DNA polymerase (DNAP) can correct errors in DNA during replication by proofreading, a process critical for cell viability. However, the mechanism by which an erroneously incorporated base translocates from the polymerase to the exonuclease site and the corrected DNA terminus returns has remained elusive. Here, we present an ensemble of nine high-resolution structures representing human mitochondrial DNA polymerase Gamma, Polγ, captured during consecutive proofreading steps. The structures reveal key events, including mismatched base recognition, its dissociation from the polymerase site, forward translocation of DNAP, alterations in DNA trajectory, repositioning and refolding of elements for primer separation, DNAP backtracking, and displacement of the mismatched base into the exonuclease site. Altogether, our findings suggest a conserved 'bolt-action' mechanism of proofreading based on iterative cycles of DNAP translocation without dissociation from the DNA, facilitating primer transfer between catalytic sites. Functional assays and mutagenesis corroborate this mechanism, connecting pathogenic mutations to crucial structural elements in proofreading steps.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

PubMed ID






To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.