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FEBS J. 2009 Mar;276(6):1506-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2009.06909.x. Epub 2009 Feb 18.

Ribonuclease H: properties, substrate specificity and roles in retroviral reverse transcription.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Retroviral reverse transcriptases possess both a DNA polymerase and an RNase H activity. The linkage with the DNA polymerase activity endows the retroviral RNases H with unique properties not found in the cellular counterparts. In addition to the typical endonuclease activity on a DNA/RNA hybrid, cleavage by the retroviral enzymes is also directed by both DNA 3' recessed and RNA 5' recessed ends, and by certain nucleotide sequence preferences in the vicinity of the cleavage site. This spectrum of specificities enables retroviral RNases H to carry out a series of cleavage reactions during reverse transcription that degrade the viral RNA genome after minus-strand synthesis, precisely generate the primer for the initiation of plus strands, facilitate the initiation of plus-strand synthesis and remove both plus- and minus-strand primers after they have been extended.

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