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Proc Biol Sci. 1991 Mar 22;243(1308):235-9.

Reverse-transcriptase-associated RNaseH activity mediates template switching during reverse transcription in vitro.

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  • 1Institut de Biologie Animale, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland.


During the first steps of reverse transcription of the retroviral genome, sequences present at the extremities of the RNA are used to reconstitute a host cell PolII promoter. The assembly of the promoter occurs by template switching, which takes advantage of a direct repeat at the ends of the RNA molecule. These steps are catalysed by the viral reverse transcriptase, which carries an intrinsic RNaseH activity that is probably also involved therein. To study the role of the RNaseH activity in this first template-switching event, an in vitro system has been developed based on primer extensions of synthetic RNAs. When an RNA was reverse transcribed with wild-type reverse transcriptase in the presence of a second RNA the 3' part of which was repeated at the 5' end of the first one, extension products could be observed corresponding to a chimeric cDNA comprising both RNA species. This template switching could not be detected when a mutant reverse transcriptase lacking the RNaseH activity was used. The results show that the RNaseH activity is needed to remove the 5' RNA sequences from the cDNA:RNA hybrid thereby enabling its translocation to another RNA containing an appropriate complementary target sequence.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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