Initiation of reverse transcription in hepadnaviruses is accomplished by a unique protein-priming mechanism whereby a specific Y residue in the terminal protein (TP) domain of the viral reverse transcriptase (RT) acts as a primer to initiate DNA synthesis, which is carried out by the RT domain of the same protein. When separate TP and RT domains from the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) RT protein were tested in a transcomplementation assay in vitro, the RT domain could also serve, unexpectedly, as a protein primer for DNA synthesis, as could a TP mutant lacking the authentic primer Y (Y96) residue. Priming at these other, so-called cryptic, priming sites in both the RT and TP domains shared the same requirements as those at Y96. A mini RT protein with both the TP and RT domains linked in cis, as well as the full-length RT protein, could also initiate DNA synthesis using cryptic priming sites. The cryptic priming site(s) in TP was found to be S/T, while those in the RT domain were Y and S/T. As with the authentic TP Y96 priming site, the cryptic priming sites in the TP and RT domains could support DNA polymerization subsequent to the initial covalent linkage of the first nucleotide to the priming amino acid residue. These results provide new insights into the complex mechanisms of protein priming in hepadnaviruses, including the selection of the primer residue and the interactions between the TP and RT domains that is essential for protein priming.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science