Reverse transcriptase

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In the fields of molecular biology and biochemistry, a reverse transcriptase, also known as RNA-dependent DNA polymerase, is a DNA polymerase enzyme that transcribes single-stranded RNA into double-stranded DNA. It also helps in the formation of a double helix DNA once the RNA has been reverse transcribed into a single strand cDNA. Normal transcription involves the synthesis of RNA from DNA; hence, reverse transcription is the reverse of this.

Reverse transcriptase was discovered by Howard Temin at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and independently by David Baltimore in 1970 at MIT. The two shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Renato Dulbecco for their discovery.

Well studied reverse transcriptases include:

Contents

Function in viruses

The enzyme is encoded and used by reverse-transcribing viruses, which use the enzyme during the process of replication. Reverse-transcribing RNA viruses, such as retroviruses, use the enzyme to reverse-transcribe their RNA genomes into DNA, which is then integrated into the host genome and replicated along with it. Reverse-transcribing DNA viruses, such as the hepadnaviruses, can allow RNA to serve as a template in assembling, and making DNA strands. HIV infects humans with the use of this enzyme. Without reverse transcriptase, the viral genome would not be able to incorporate into the host cell, resulting in the failure of the ability to replicate.

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