Temporal coordination between initiation of HIV (+)-strand DNA synthesis and primer removal

J Biol Chem. 1999 Apr 16;274(16):11159-69. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.16.11159.


In this study, we have analyzed the interdependence between the polymerase and RNase H active sites of human immunodeficiency virus-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) using an in vitro system that closely mimics the initiation of (+)-strand DNA synthesis. Time course experiments show that RT pauses after addition of the 12th DNA residue, and at this stage the RNase H activity starts to cleave the RNA primer from newly synthesized DNA. Comparison of cleavage profiles obtained with 3'- and 5'-end-labeled primer strands indicates that RT now translocates in the opposite direction, i.e. in the 5' direction of the RNA strand. DNA synthesis resumes again in the 3' direction, after the RNA-DNA junction was efficiently cleaved. Moreover, we further characterized complexes generated before, during, and after position +12, by treating these with Fe2+ to localize the RNase H active site on the DNA template. Initially, when RT binds the RNA/DNA substrate, oxidative strand breaks were seen at a distance of 18 base pairs upstream from the primer terminus, whereas 17 base pairs were observed at later stages when the enzyme binds more and more DNA/DNA. These data show that the initiation of (+)-strand synthesis is accompanied by a conformational change of the polymerase-competent complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • HIV / genetics*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism


  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA primers
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA
  • Iron