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Biochemistry. 2013 Dec 23;52(51):9318-28. doi: 10.1021/bi401390x. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

Major groove binding track residues of the connection subdomain of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase enhance cDNA synthesis at high temperatures.

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Centro de Biología Molecular "Severo Ochoa", Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Autónoma de Madrid , 28049 Madrid, Spain.


At high temperatures, RNA denaturation can improve the efficiency and specificity of reverse transcription. Refined structures and molecular models of HIV-1 reverse transcriptases (RTs) from phylogenetically distant clades (i.e., group M subtype B and group O) revealed a major interaction between the template-primer and the Arg³⁵⁸-Gly³⁵⁹-Ala³⁶⁰ triad in the large subunit of HIV-1M/B RT. However, fewer contacts were predicted for the equivalent Lys³⁵⁸-Ala³⁵⁹-Ser³⁶⁰ triad of HIV-1O RT and the nucleic acid. An engineered HIV-1O K358R/A359G/S360A RT showed increased cDNA synthesis efficiency above 68 °C, as determined by qualitative and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reactions. In comparison with wild-type HIV-1O RT, the mutant enzyme showed higher thermal stability but retained wild-type RNase H activity. Mutations that increased the accuracy of HIV-1M/B RTs were tested in combination with the K358R/A359G/S360A triple mutation. Some of them (e.g., F61A, K65R, K65R/V75I, and V148I) had a negative effect on reverse transcription efficiency above 65 °C. RTs with improved DNA binding affinities also showed higher cDNA synthesis efficiencies at elevated temperatures. Two of the most thermostable RTs (i.e., mutants T69SSG/K358R/A359G/S360A and K358R/A359G/S360A/E478Q) showed moderately increased fidelity in forward mutation assays. Our results demonstrate that the triad of Arg³⁵⁸, Gly³⁵⁹, and Ala³⁶⁰ in the major groove binding track of HIV-1 RT is a major target for RT stabilization, and most relevant for improving reverse transcription efficiency at high temperatures.

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