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J Mol Biol. 1996 Dec 13;264(4):650-66.

Bent pseudoknots and novel RNA inhibitors of type 1 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309-0347, USA.


The reverse transcriptase (RT) of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a proven target for therapeutic intervention of HIV infections. We have found several new RNA inhibitors of HIV-1 RT that differ significantly from the pseudoknot ligands found previously, along with a wide variety of pseudoknot variants. One pseudoknot variant and three novel ligands were studied in more detail. Each specifically inhibits DNA polymerization by HIV RT (half-maximal inhibition at 0.3 to 20 nM inhibitor), but not that of RTs derived from MMLV or AMV. The minimal binding element of each isolate was determined by deletion analysis and by gel electrophoresis of protein-bound, partially alkaline-hydrolyzed RNA. Truncations of three of the isolates bound nearly as well as (or better than) the parental sequences, while most deletions in the fourth caused substantial disruption of binding. The truncated versions of two isolates were subjected to six rounds of secondary SELEX after resynthesizing them mutagenically. Patterns of conserved and covarying nucleotides yielded structural models consistent with 5' and 3' boundary determinations for these molecules. Among the four isolates studied in detail, the first is confirmed as being a pseudoknot, albeit with substantial structural differences as compared to the canonical pseudoknots identified previously. The second forms a stem-loop structure with additional flanking sequences required for binding. Tentative structural models for the other two isolates are presented. The minimal fully active truncations of each of these four isolates compete with each other and with a classical RNA pseudoknot for binding to HIV RT, suggesting that they all recognize the same or overlapping sites on the protein, in spite of their apparently dissimilar structures. We model their interactions with RT as mimicking the 40 to 45 degrees bend in dsDNA co-crystallized with RT.

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