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Cell. 1989 Jul 14;58(1):47-54.

Structure of the termini of DNA intermediates in the integration of retroviral DNA: dependence on IN function and terminal DNA sequence.

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


Linear retroviral DNA, the major precursor to the integrated provirus of the murine leukemia viruses, contains a mixture of two structures at its ends: some termini are full-length and blunt, and some have recessed 3' strands. A temporal study of the end structures showed that the proportion of the DNA with recessed ends increases during the course of infection, and suggests that the blunt ends are precursors to the recessed ends. We have examined the DNA structures of the ends of retroviral mutants defective in the integration (IN) function. The results show that the formation of the recessed ends requires the presence of IN. Finally, we have analyzed the structures at the ends of mutant genomes with alterations in the terminal DNA sequence. The exact position of the recessed 3' end can be recessed one, two, or four nucleotides relative to the 5' end. In all cases the position of the recessed 3' end correlates perfectly with, and thus presumably determines, the site of joining to the target DNA.

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