Interactions between human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase, tRNA primer, and nucleocapsid protein during reverse transcription

J Hum Virol. 2000 Jan-Feb;3(1):16-26.


An early step in the life cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is the reverse transcription of the viral RNA genome into double-stranded DNA, which is subsequently translocated to the cell nucleus. It is then integrated into host DNA and serves as a template for viral gene expression. Reverse transcription is catalyzed by the viral enzyme reverse transcriptase and is a complex process comprising a series of RNA-dependent DNA polymerization, DNA-dependent DNA polymerization, and RNase H reactions. Strand transfer reactions are required to complete the process. Reverse transcription is initiated when a molecule of host cell tRNA(lys3), which serves as a primer, is bound to the primer binding site of viral genomic RNA. The viral nucleocapsid protein is involved in each of the initiation of reverse transcription and in subsequent strand transfer or template-switching events. We review the interactions among reverse transcriptase, viral genomic RNA, the tRNA primer of reverse transcription, and viral nucleocapsid protein in the various steps of reverse transcription, including primer placement, initiation, and processive synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Azo Compounds / pharmacology
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Primers / metabolism*
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / physiology*
  • HIV-1 / enzymology*
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Azo Compounds
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Viral
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • azodicarbonamide
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase