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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Oct 14;94(21):11279-84.

Binding of RNA template to a complex of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase/primer/template.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) catalyzes the synthesis of DNA from DNA or RNA templates. During this process, it must transfer its primer from one template to another RNA or DNA template. Binary complexes made of RT and a primer/template bind an additional single-stranded RNA molecule of the same nucleotide sequence as that of the DNA or RNA template. The additional RNA strand leads to a 10-fold decrease of the off-rate constant, koff, of RT from a primer/DNA template. In a binary complex of RT and a primer/template, the primer can be cross-linked to both the p66 and p51 subunits. Depending on the location of the photoreactive group in the primer, the distribution of the cross-linked primers between subunits is dependent on the nature of the template and of the additional single-stranded molecule. Greater cross-linking of the primer to p51 occurs with DNA templates, whereas cross-linking to p66 predominates with RNA templates. Excess single-stranded DNA shifts the distribution of cross-linking from p66 to p51 with RNA templates, and excess single-stranded RNA shifts the cross-linking from p51 to p66 with DNA templates. RT thus uses two primer/template binding modes depending on the nature of the template.

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