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J Mol Biol. 1999 Jun 11;289(3):473-90.

Group II intron reverse transcriptase in yeast mitochondria. Stabilization and regulation of reverse transcriptase activity by the intron RNA.

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Departments of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA.


Group II introns encode reverse transcriptases that function in both intron mobility and RNA splicing. The proteins bind specifically to unspliced precursor RNA to promote splicing, and then remain associated with the excised intron to form a DNA endonuclease that mediates intron mobility by target DNA-primed reverse transcription. Here, immunoblotting and UV cross-linking experiments show that the reverse transcriptase activity encoded by the yeast mtDNA group II intron aI2 is associated with an intron-encoded protein of 62 kDa (p62). p62 is bound tightly to endogenous RNAs in mitochondrial ribonucleoprotein particles, and the reverse transcriptase activity is rapidly and irreversibly lost when the protein is released from the endogenous RNAs by RNase digestion. Non-denaturing gel electrophoresis and activity assays show that the aI2 reverse transcriptase is associated predominantly with the excised intron RNA, while a smaller amount is associated with unspliced precursor RNA, as expected from the role of the protein in RNA splicing. Although the reverse transcriptase in wild-type yeast strains is bound tightly to endogenous RNAs, it is regulated so that it does not copy these RNAs unless a suitable DNA oligonucleotide primer or DNA target site is provided. Certain mutations in the intron-encoded protein or RNA circumvent this regulation and activate reverse transcription of endogenous RNAs in the absence of added primer. Although p62 is bound to unspliced precursor RNA in position to initiate cDNA synthesis in the 3' exon, the major template for target DNA-primed reverse transcription in vitro is the reverse-spliced intron RNA, as found previously for aI1. Together, our results show that binding to intron-containing RNAs stabilizes and regulates the activity of p62.

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