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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 June; 15(6): 3310–3317.
PMCID: PMC230564

A novel mechanism of self-primed reverse transcription defines a new family of retroelements.


Retroviruses and long terminal repeat (LTR)-containing retrotransposons initiate reverse transcription by using a specific tRNA primer than anneals to the primer-binding site of the retroelement transcript. Sequences from a large number of retroviruses and LTR-containing retrotransposons had indicated that the role of tRNAs in priming reverse transcription is universal among these LTR-containing retroelements. Data presented here strongly support the surprising conclusion that Tf1, a highly active LTR-containing retrotransposon isolated from Schizosaccharomyces pombe, undergoes a novel self-priming process that requires hybridization between the primer-binding site and the first 11 bases of the Tf1 transcript. Single-base mutations in these regions block transposition and reverse transcription, while compensatory mutations that reestablish complementarily rescue both defects. In addition, the sequence of the minus-strand RNA primer of reverse transcription was consistent with its being derived from the 5' end of the Tf1 transcript. Evidence that this mechanism defines a new family of retroelements is presented.

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