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Biochem J. 1993 Dec 15;296 ( Pt 3):577-83.

Sulphydryl groups in the template-primer-binding domain of murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase. Identification and functional analysis of cysteine-90.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark 07103.


Treatment of murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase with benzophenone 4-maleimide inactivates DNA polymerase activity, but has no effect on the RNAase H function. Kinetic measurements indicated that benzophenone 4-maleimide is a competitive inhibitor with respect to template-primer binding, but is non-competitive with respect to dNTP binding. Enzyme modified with benzophenone 4-maleimide cannot bind template-primer or primer alone, as judged by u.v.-mediated cross-linking of radiolabelled substrates. Of the eight cysteine residues in murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase, only two were modified by benzophenone 4-maleimide, which were identified as Cys-90 and Cys-310 by comparative tryptic-peptide mapping and amino acid composition analysis. Inclusion of template-primer or primer alone in the modification mixture protected only Cys-90 from modification by benzophenone 4-maleimide. To investigate the role of Cys-90 in detail, we converted it to alanine by site-directed mutagenesis. The mutant enzyme, however, exhibited no loss either of DNA polymerase or of RNAase H activity. These results indicate that Cys-90 is located in a domain of murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase that binds template-primer, but may not have a direct role in the enzymic function of the enzyme. Ala-90 mutant murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase is at least 10-fold more susceptible to heat inactivation than is the wild-type enzyme, which suggests that Cys-90 in murine leukaemia virus reverse transcriptase may play a role in maintaining structural integrity.

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