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J Virol. 1999 Aug;73(8):6573-81.

RNase H requirements for the second strand transfer reaction of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcription.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


Retroviral reverse transcriptase (RT) enzymes are responsible for transcribing viral RNA into double-stranded DNA. An in vitro assay to analyze the second strand transfer event during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcription has been developed. Model substrates were constructed which mimic the viral intermediate found during plus-strand strong-stop synthesis. Utilizing wild-type HIV-1 RT and a mutant E478Q RT, the requirement for RNase H activity in this strand transfer event was analyzed. In the presence of Mg2+, HIV-1 RT was able to fully support the second strand transfer reaction in vitro. However, in the presence of Mg2+, the E478Q RT mutant had no detectable RNase H activity and was unable to support strand transfer. In the presence of Mn2+, the E478Q RT yields the initial endoribonucleolytic cleavage at the penultimate C residue of the tRNA primer yet does not support strand transfer. This suggests that subsequent degradation of the RNA primer by the RNase H domain was required for strand transfer. In reactions in which the E478Q RT was complemented with exogenous RNase H enzymes, strand transfer was supported. Additionally, we have shown that HIV-1 RT is capable of supporting strand transfer with substrates that mimic tRNAHis as well as the authentic tRNA3Lys.

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