Synthesis of DNA by human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase is preferentially blocked at template oligo(deoxyadenosine) tracts.


The genome of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and especially the envelope gene are mutated with unusually high frequency during in vivo replication. Recent studies indicate that HIV reverse transcriptase (RT) is unusually error prone and that the number of generated mutations is disproportionately high within repetitive base sequences. To study the ability of recombinant and wild-type HIV RT to traverse specific homo-oligomeric stretches, we used bacteriophage M13 DNA templates that contain different oligo(purine) and oligo(pyrimidine) inserted tracts. The progress of HIV RT along these templates was potently inhibited from further progression only at a (dA)16 insert. Comparison with other polymerases indicates that the almost complete blockage of polymerization beyond an oligo(dA) insert is unique to HIV RT and Moloney murine leukemia virus RT, which has high sequence homology with HIV RT. The extent of termination of HIV RT at the oligo(dA) run is not affected by alterations in the concentration of KCl, Mg2+, dNTP, or by a decrease in pH. Obstruction of HIV RT opposite the oligo(dA) insert is not alleviated by moving the primer position further upstream from the oligo(dA) insert. Lastly, HIV RT purified directly from virions is also specifically arrested at an oligo(dA) tract. Competition experiments indicate that the concentration of active HIV RT in the presence of M13(dA)16 DNA is similar to that observed in the presence of M13(dG)16 DNA. In addition, preincubation of M13(dA)16 DNA with HIV RT does not subsequently inhibit avian myeloblastosis virus RT from successfully traversing the (dA)16 insert. Therefore, it appears that the blockage of chain elongation of HIV RT at the (dA)16 insert is not the result of trapping the enzyme at this site.




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