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Polymerase vs. Primase: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 27, 2024
Polymerase synthesizes nucleic acids; primase initiates DNA replication with RNA primers.

Key Differences

Polymerase is an enzyme that catalyzes the polymerization of nucleotides into nucleic acid chains. In contrast, primase is a specific type of polymerase that synthesizes short RNA sequences called primers, necessary for DNA replication.
Polymerases can work on both DNA and RNA and are essential for processes like DNA replication and transcription, while primase specifically functions at the onset of DNA replication, laying down RNA primers to which DNA polymerases can attach.
The activity of polymerases involves adding nucleotides to the growing DNA or RNA strand, ensuring genetic fidelity. However, primase has a more specialized role, providing a starting point for DNA polymerases by synthesizing a short RNA segment.
Polymerases are crucial for cell replication and gene expression, working across various stages of cell cycle. Primase, on the other hand, is crucial during the initial phase of DNA replication, facilitating the synthesis of the leading and lagging strands.
The error rate of polymerases is generally low due to proofreading functions, whereas primase lacks such mechanisms, as the RNA primers it creates are temporary and replaced by DNA nucleotides later in the replication process.

Comparison Chart


Synthesizes DNA or RNA strands
Creates RNA primers for DNA replication


Works on DNA and RNA
Works only at the start of DNA replication

Product Type

Long DNA or RNA chains
Short RNA primers

Error Correction

Often has proofreading capabilities
Lacks proofreading, errors less consequential

Role in Cell

Vital for replication, transcription, repair
Essential for initiating DNA replication

Polymerase and Primase Definitions


Enzyme catalyzing nucleic acid synthesis.
DNA polymerase is key in replicating the genetic code.


Creates short RNA sequences.
Primase produces RNA primers that are temporary but crucial.


Operates in synthesizing DNA strands.
During cell division, polymerase ensures accurate DNA replication.


Synthesizes RNA primers for DNA replication.
Primase lays the foundation for new DNA strands during replication.


Crucial for RNA transcription.
RNA polymerase transcribes DNA into messenger RNA.


Functions at replication forks.
Primase works where the DNA helix unwinds during replication.


Plays a role in gene expression.
Polymerase enzymes are vital for converting genetic information into functional proteins.


Essential for initiating DNA synthesis.
Without primase, DNA polymerase cannot begin replication.


Involved in DNA replication and repair.
The cell's ability to fix genetic errors relies on polymerase activity.


Operates only during DNA replication.
Primase activity is crucial in the early stages of cell division.


Any of various enzymes, such as DNA polymerase, RNA polymerase, or reverse transcriptase, that catalyze the formation of polynucleotides of DNA or RNA using an existing strand of DNA or RNA as a template.


(enzyme) An RNA polymerase involved in the initiation of DNA synthesis.


(enzyme) Any of various enzymes that catalyze the formation of polymers of DNA or RNA using an existing strand of RNA or DNA respectively as a template.


An enzyme that catalyzes the formation of new DNA and RNA from an existing strand of DNA or RNA


Can polymerase start DNA replication?

Polymerase extends nucleotide chains but cannot initiate replication without primase.

Is primase active throughout the cell cycle?

Primase is primarily active during DNA replication phase.

Do polymerases make mistakes?

Yes, but many have proofreading abilities to correct errors.

How many types of polymerases are there?

There are several, including DNA and RNA polymerases.

Is polymerase involved in transcription?

Yes, RNA polymerase is key in the transcription process.

Are primase and polymerase the same?

No, they have different functions in DNA replication.

Does primase work on RNA?

Primase synthesizes RNA primers but doesn't work on existing RNA.

Can primase function independently?

Primase usually works in conjunction with other enzymes during replication.

What does polymerase do?

Polymerase synthesizes DNA and RNA molecules.

Where is primase found?

Primase is found at the replication forks in cells.

Is primase involved in genetic disorders?

Malfunctioning primase can lead to replication errors, potentially causing genetic disorders.

What happens if primase is absent?

Absence of primase disrupts DNA replication, impacting cell division and survival.

How does polymerase aid in DNA repair?

Polymerase can synthesize new DNA strands to replace damaged ones.

What's unique about primase structure?

Primase has a unique structure suitable for synthesizing short RNA primers.

What determines primase specificity?

Primase is specific to the initiation of DNA replication.

Are polymerases found in all organisms?

Yes, they are essential in all living organisms.

Does primase have proofreading ability?

No, primase lacks proofreading capabilities.

How does polymerase recognize where to work?

Polymerase is guided by the cell's genetic instructions and existing nucleic acid structures.

Do all cells contain polymerase?

Yes, polymerase is a fundamental enzyme in all cells.

Can polymerase activity be regulated?

Yes, cells regulate polymerase activity to control DNA replication and transcription.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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