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J Biol Chem. 1995 Jan 6;270(1):325-32.

Strand transfer mediated by human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase in vitro is promoted by pausing and results in misincorporation.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) is able to recombine by transfer of the growing DNA strand from internal regions of one genome to another. The strand transfer reaction, catalyzed by HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT), was conducted in vitro between donor and acceptor RNA templates that were derived from natural HIV-1 nef genes. The donor and acceptor templates shared a nearly homologous region where strand transfer could occur, differing only in that the acceptor had a 36-nucleotide insertion and 6 widely spaced base substitutions compared with the donor. We sequenced elongated primers that underwent transfer. The position of transfer was revealed by the change of sequence from that of the donor to that of the acceptor. Results showed a positive correlation between positions where the RT paused during synthesis and enhancement of strand transfer. Elimination of a pause site, with a minimal change in sequence, decreased the frequency of strand transfer in the immediate area. Analysis of the sequence of DNA products resulting from transfer at a frequently used site showed that mutations had been introduced into the DNA at about the point of transfer. Remarkably, approximately 30% of the products contained mutations. Base substitutions, short additions and deletions were observed. Mutations did not appear in DNA products extended on the donor template without transfer. The identity of the mutations suggests that they were caused by a combination of slippage and non-template-directed nucleotide addition. These results indicated that the detected mutations were related to the process of strand transfer.

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