1998 Volume 73 Issue 6 Pages 323-336
Archaea is now recognized as the third domain of life. Since their discovery, much effort has been directed towards understanding the molecular biology and biochemistry of Archaea. The objective is to comprehend the complete structure and the depth of the phylogenetic tree of life. DNA replication is one of the most important events in living organisms and DNA polymerase is the key enzyme in the molecular machinery which drives the process. All archaeal DNA polymerases were thought to belong to family B. This was because all of the products of pol genes that had been cloned showed amino acid sequence similarities to those of this family, which includes three eukaryal DNA replicases and Escherichia coli DNA polymerase II. Recently, we found a new heterodimeric DNA polymerase from the hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus. The genes coding for the subunits of this DNA polymerase are conserved in the euryarchaeotes whose genomes have been completely sequenced. The biochemical characteristics of the novel DNA polymerase family suggest that its members play an important role in DNA replication within euryarchaeal cells. We review here our current knowledge on DNA polymerases in Archaea with emphasis on the novel DNA polymerase discovered in Euryarchaeota.