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DNA polymerase (pol) ι is the most error-prone among the Y-family polymerases that participate in translesion synthesis (TLS). Pol ι can bypass various DNA lesions, e.g., N(2)-ethyl(Et)G, O(6)-methyl(Me)G, 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxoG), and an abasic site, though frequently with low fidelity. We assessed the biochemical effects of six reported genetic variations of human pol ι on its TLS properties, using the recombinant pol ι (residues 1-445) proteins and DNA templates containing a G, N(2)-EtG, O(6)-MeG, 8-oxoG, or abasic site. The Δ1-25 variant, which is the N-terminal truncation of 25 residues resulting from an initiation codon variant (c.3G > A) and also is the formerly misassigned wild-type, exhibited considerably higher polymerase activity than wild-type with Mg(2+) (but not with Mn(2+)), coinciding with its steady-state kinetic data showing a ∼10-fold increase in kcat/Km for nucleotide incorporation opposite templates (only with Mg(2+)). The R96G variant, which lacks a R96 residue known to interact with the incoming nucleotide, lost much of its polymerase activity, consistent with the kinetic data displaying 5- to 72-fold decreases in kcat/Km for nucleotide incorporation opposite templates either with Mg(2+) or Mn(2+), except for that opposite N(2)-EtG with Mn(2+) (showing a 9-fold increase for dCTP incorporation). The Δ1-25 variant bound DNA 20- to 29-fold more tightly than wild-type (with Mg(2+)), but the R96G variant bound DNA 2-fold less tightly than wild-type. The DNA-binding affinity of wild-type, but not of the Δ1-25 variant, was ∼7-fold stronger with 0.15 mM Mn(2+) than with Mg(2+). The results indicate that the R96G variation severely impairs most of the Mg(2+)- and Mn(2+)-dependent TLS abilities of pol ι, whereas the Δ1-25 variation selectively and substantially enhances the Mg(2+)-dependent TLS capability of pol ι, emphasizing the potential translational importance of these pol ι genetic variations, e.g., individual differences in TLS, mutation, and cancer susceptibility to genotoxic carcinogens.