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EMBO J. 1991 Dec;10(12):3905-11.

Subunit-selective mutagenesis indicates minimal polymerase activity in heterodimer-associated p51 HIV-1 reverse transcriptase.

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  • 1Central Research Units, F. Hoffmann-LaRoche Ltd, Basel, Switzerland.


We have purified and determined functional parameters of reconstituted, recombinant HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) heterodimers within which either the p66 or p51 polypeptide was selectively mutated in one or both aspartic acid residues constituting the proposed polymerase active site (-Y-M-D-D-). Heterodimers containing a mutated p51 polypeptide retain almost wild type levels of both RNA-dependent DNA polymerase and ribonuclease H (RNaseH) activity. In contrast, heterodimers whose p66 polypeptide was likewise mutated exhibit wild type RNaseH activity but are deficient in RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity. These results indicate that in heterodimer RT, the p51 component cannot compensate for active site mutations eliminating the activity of p66, indirectly implying that solely the p66 aspartic acid residues of heterodimer are crucial for catalysis.

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