Mutation of amino acids in the connection domain of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase that contact the template-primer affects RNase H activity.

Abstract:

The crystal structure of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase in a complex with an RNA-DNA template-primer identified amino acids in the connection domain that make specific contacts with the nucleic acid. We analyzed the effects of mutations in these amino acids by using a one-round HIV-1 vector. Mutations in amino acids in the connection domain generally had small effects on virus titers. To determine whether the mutations affected the level of RNase H activity or the specificity of RNase H cleavage, we used the two-long-terminal-repeat circle junction as a surrogate for the ends of linear viral DNA; specific RNase H cleavages determine the ends of the viral DNA. Several of the mutations in the connection domain affected the frequency of the generation of viral DNAs with aberrant ends. The mutation H361A had the largest effect on the titer and on the generation of DNAs with aberrant ends. H361 contacts the phosphate backbone of the nucleic acid in the same location as amino acid Y501 in the RNase H primer grip. Mutations at Y501 have been shown to decrease the virus titer and affect the specificity of RNase H cleavage. H361A affected the frequency of the generation of linear viral DNAs with aberrant ends, but in general the connection domain mutations had subtle effects on the efficiency of RNase H cleavage. The results of this study suggest that, in addition to its primary role in linking the polymerase and RNase H domains, the connection subdomain has a modest role in binding and positioning the nucleic acid.

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