Reverse Transcriptase, Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type‐1

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Definition

Reverse transcriptase (RT) is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of single‐stranded RNA to double‐stranded DNA. This process is known as reverse transcription or RNA‐dependent DNA polymerization. RT is essential for the replication and evolution of all retroviruses that contain RNA genomes including the human immunodeficiency virus type‐1 (HIV‐1). In this essay, HIV‐1 RT will be exemplified in order to discuss some important characteristics with regard to the structure and function of this enzyme and its role as a viral target for the development of antiretroviral drugs used for the treatment of patients with HIV infection.

RT is one of three enzymatic activities that is encoded by the HIV‐1 polymerase (pol) gene open‐reading frame. In mature viral particles, RT exists as a heterodimer that is made up of two protein subunits referred to as p51 and p66. The p51 subunit contains only the first 440 amino acid residues encoded by the RT gene. The larger p66 subunit ...