DNA-dependent DNA polymerase vs. DNA-dependent RNA polymerase

What's the Difference?

DNA-dependent DNA polymerase and DNA-dependent RNA polymerase are both enzymes involved in the replication and transcription processes of genetic material. However, they have distinct functions and characteristics. DNA-dependent DNA polymerase is responsible for synthesizing a new DNA strand during DNA replication, using a template DNA strand. It adds nucleotides to the growing DNA chain in a 5' to 3' direction. On the other hand, DNA-dependent RNA polymerase is involved in transcription, where it synthesizes RNA molecules using a DNA template. It adds ribonucleotides to the growing RNA chain in a 5' to 3' direction. While both enzymes are essential for genetic processes, their specific roles and substrates differ, reflecting the diversity of functions required for DNA replication and gene expression.


AttributeDNA-dependent DNA polymeraseDNA-dependent RNA polymerase
Enzyme TypeDNA polymeraseRNA polymerase
FunctionSynthesizes new DNA strands using a DNA templateSynthesizes RNA strands using a DNA template
TemplateRequires a DNA templateRequires a DNA template
ProductProduces DNA strandsProduces RNA strands
ProcessivityHigh processivityLow processivity
ProofreadingHas proofreading activityLacks proofreading activity
TerminationTerminates at specific DNA sequencesTerminates at specific DNA sequences
SubunitsMultiple subunitsMultiple subunits

Further Detail


DNA polymerases are essential enzymes involved in DNA replication and transcription processes. They play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity and stability of genetic information. Two major types of DNA polymerases are DNA-dependent DNA polymerase (DDDP) and DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (DDRP). While both enzymes are involved in nucleic acid synthesis, they have distinct functions and characteristics.

Function and Role

DDDP is primarily responsible for DNA replication during cell division. It synthesizes a complementary DNA strand using a DNA template, ensuring accurate replication of the genetic material. On the other hand, DDRP is involved in transcription, which is the process of synthesizing RNA molecules from a DNA template. DDRP recognizes specific DNA sequences called promoters and initiates RNA synthesis, leading to the production of messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNA (tRNA), and ribosomal RNA (rRNA).

Subunit Composition

DDDP consists of multiple subunits, including a catalytic subunit responsible for polymerization and proofreading activities. It also requires accessory proteins for processivity and stability. In contrast, DDRP is a large multi-subunit complex composed of several subunits with distinct functions. These subunits work together to recognize DNA sequences, initiate transcription, and elongate the RNA chain.

Template Recognition

DDDP recognizes specific DNA sequences known as origins of replication, which mark the starting points for DNA synthesis. These origins contain specific DNA motifs that are recognized by DDDP, allowing it to bind and initiate replication. In contrast, DDRP recognizes different DNA sequences called promoters, which are located upstream of the genes. Promoters contain specific DNA motifs that DDRP recognizes, enabling it to bind and initiate transcription.


DDDP exhibits high processivity, meaning it can catalyze the addition of multiple nucleotides to the growing DNA chain without dissociating from the template. This processivity is crucial for efficient DNA replication. DDRP, on the other hand, exhibits lower processivity. It synthesizes a short RNA chain before dissociating from the DNA template. The dissociation allows other factors to process the RNA molecule and complete the transcription process.

Proofreading and Error Correction

DDDP possesses a proofreading activity that allows it to correct errors during DNA replication. It can detect and remove mismatched nucleotides, ensuring high fidelity in DNA synthesis. This proofreading activity is crucial for maintaining the accuracy of the genetic code. In contrast, DDRP lacks proofreading activity. As a result, errors in RNA synthesis are not corrected during transcription. However, the impact of these errors is mitigated by the fact that RNA molecules are generally more short-lived compared to DNA.

Product Specificity

DDDP synthesizes a complementary DNA strand using deoxyribonucleotides (dNTPs) as building blocks. It incorporates dNTPs into the growing DNA chain, resulting in the formation of a double-stranded DNA molecule. DDRP, on the other hand, synthesizes RNA molecules using ribonucleotides (NTPs) as building blocks. It incorporates NTPs into the growing RNA chain, leading to the formation of single-stranded RNA molecules.


DDDP activity is tightly regulated to ensure accurate DNA replication. It is activated during the S phase of the cell cycle and is controlled by various regulatory proteins and checkpoints. These mechanisms prevent aberrant DNA synthesis and maintain genomic stability. DDRP activity, on the other hand, is regulated by different factors involved in transcriptional control. These factors include transcription factors, chromatin structure, and epigenetic modifications, which determine when and where transcription occurs.


While both DNA-dependent DNA polymerase and DNA-dependent RNA polymerase are essential for nucleic acid synthesis, they have distinct functions and characteristics. DDDP is primarily involved in DNA replication, ensuring accurate duplication of the genetic material. DDRP, on the other hand, is responsible for transcription, synthesizing RNA molecules from DNA templates. Understanding the differences between these two polymerases is crucial for comprehending the intricate processes that govern genetic information flow within cells.

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