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Eur J Biochem. 1987 Mar 16;163(3):569-75.

RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity in Paramecium tetraurelia: what for?


Protein extracts from the protozoan ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia revealed high levels of RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity (reverse transcriptase). Stable and constant during the somatic phase of the cell cycle, the reverse transcriptase activity quickly diminished following the completion of the sexual phases of the cell cycle: conjugation and autogamy. The Paramecium reverse transcriptase presented a number of common features with retroviral polymerases: ability to copy synthetic templates such as poly(rCm).oligo(dG) as well as mRNA; sensitivity to various reverse transcriptase inhibitors such as HPA 23, suramin, phosphonoformate and ethidium bromide; insensitivity to the action of other DNA and RNA polymerase inhibitors and, finally, the requirement for divalent cations before the enzyme can function: either magnesium or manganese. Although the reverse transcriptase activity was not proven to be independent from one of the DNA polymerases in paramecia, its high activity predicts a role in the paramecia cell cycle. From what we are able to conceive today two possible roles could be envisaged. Participation in the anlage macronucleus formation: micronuclear sequences are first transcripted and, after rearrangements of the RNA molecules, these are retrotranscribed into the macronuclear DNA molecules or association with retrotransposons that participate in the movement of certain macronuclear sequences into the germ-line micronucleus.

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