Human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase. Functional mutants obtained by random mutagenesis coupled with genetic selection in Escherichia coli.

Abstract:

We describe catalytically active mutants of HIV RT (human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase) generated by random sequence mutagenesis and selected in Escherichia coli for ability to complement the temperature-sensitive phenotype of a DNA polymerase I (Pol Its) mutant. We targeted amino acids Asp-67 through Arg-78 in HIV RT, which form part of the beta3-beta4 flexible loop and harbor many of the currently known mutations that confer resistance to nucleoside analogs. DNA sequencing of 109 selected mutants that complement the Pol Its phenotype revealed substitutions at all 12 residues targeted, indicating that none of the wild-type amino acids is essential. However, single mutations were not observed at Trp-71, Arg-72, and Arg-78, consistent with evolutionary conservation of these residues among viral RTs and lack of variation at these positions among isolates from patients. The mutations we recovered included most of those associated with drug resistance as well as previously unidentified mutations. Purification and assay of 14 mutant proteins revealed correlation between their DNA-dependent DNA polymerize activity in vitro and ability to complement the Pol Its phenotype. Activity of several mutants was resistant to 3'-azidothymidine triphosphate. We conclude that random sequence mutagenesis coupled with positive genetic selection in E. coli yields large numbers of functional HIV RT mutants. Among these are less active variants which are unlikely to be isolated from HIV-infected individuals and which will be informative of the roles of individual amino acids in the catalytic functions of the enzyme.

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