Reverse transcription of retroviruses and LTR retrotransposons
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Retroelements are mobile genetic entities that replicate via reverse transcription of a template RNA. A key component to the life cycle of these elements is the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT), which copies the single-stranded genomic RNA of the element into a linear double-stranded DNA that is ultimately integrated into the host genome by the element-encoded integrase. RT is a multifunctionnal enzyme which possesses RNA-dependent and DNA-dependent DNA polymerase activities as well as RNase H activity that specifically degrades the RNA strand of RNA-DNA duplexes. At some stages of the replication a strand-displacement activity of RT is also necessary. All activities are essential for the conversion of single-stranded genomic RNA into the double-stranded preintegrative DNA. This review focuses on the role of RT in the different steps of the replication process of retroelements. The features of retrotransposon replication which differ from the retroviral ones will be emphasized. In a second part of the review, the biochemical and enzymatic properties of two newly characterized retrotransposon RTs will be described. The role of the integrase domain in reverse transcriptase activity of some retroviral and retrotransposon RTs will be discussed.
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