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J Virol. 2005 Dec;79(23):14863-75.

Specific recognition and cleavage of the plus-strand primer by reverse transcriptase.

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  • 1Section on Eukaryotic Transposable Elements, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Reverse transcriptases (RTs) of retroviruses and long terminal repeat (LTR)-retrotransposons possess DNA polymerase and RNase H activities. During reverse transcription these activities are necessary for the programmed sequence of events that include template switching and primer processing. Integrase then inserts the completed cDNA into the genome of the host cell. The RT of the LTR-retrotransposon Tf1 was subjected to random mutagenesis, and the resulting transposons were screened with genetic assays to test which mutations reduced reverse transcription and which inhibited integration. We identified a cluster of mutations in the RNase H domain of RT that were surprising because they blocked integration without reducing cDNA levels. The results of immunoblots demonstrated that these mutations did not reduce levels of RT or integrase. DNA blots showed that the mutations did not lower the amounts of full-length cDNA. The sequences of the 3' ends of the cDNA revealed that mutations within the cluster in RNase H specifically reduced the removal of the polypurine tract (PPT) primer from the ends of the cDNA. These results indicate that primer removal is not a necessary component of reverse transcription. The residues mutated in Tf1 RNase H are conserved in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 and make direct contact with DNA opposite the PPT. Thus, our results identify a conserved element in RT that contacts the PPT and is specifically required for PPT removal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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