Incomplete and low-fidelity genome duplication contribute to genomic instability and cancer development. Difficult-to-Replicate Sequences, or DiToRS, are natural impediments in the genome that require specialized DNA polymerases and repair pathways to complete and maintain faithful DNA synthesis. DiToRS include non B-DNA secondary structures formed by repetitive sequences, for example within chromosomal fragile sites and telomeres, which inhibit DNA replication under endogenous stress conditions. Oncogene activation alters DNA replication dynamics and creates oncogenic replication stress, resulting in persistent activation of the DNA damage and replication stress responses, cell cycle arrest, and cell death. The response to oncogenic replication stress is highly complex and must be tightly regulated to prevent mutations and tumorigenesis. In this review, we summarize types of known DiToRS and the experimental evidence supporting replication inhibition, with a focus on the specialized DNA polymerases utilized to cope with these obstacles. In addition, we discuss different causes of oncogenic replication stress and its impact on DiToRS stability. We highlight recent findings regarding the regulation of DNA polymerases during oncogenic replication stress and the implications for cancer development.
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