Secondary structure of the HIV-2 leader RNA comprising the tRNA-primer binding site

B. Berkhout, I. Schoneveld

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The initiation of reverse transcription of a retroviral RNA genome occurs by a tRNA primer bound near the 5' end of the genomic RNA at a position called the primer-binding site (PBS). To understand the molecular basis for this RNA-RNA interaction, the secondary structure of the leader RNA of the human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) RNA was analyzed. In vitro synthesized HIV-2 RNA was probed with various structure-specific enzymes and chemicals. A computer program was then used to predict the secondary structure consistent with these data. In addition, the nucleotide sequences of different HIV-2 isolates were used to screen for the occurrence of covariation among putative base pairs. The primary sequences have diverged rapidly in some HIV-2 isolates, however, some strikingly conserved secondary structure elements were identified. Most nucleotides in the leader region are involved in base pairing. An exception is the PBS sequence, of which 15 out of 18 nucleotides are exposed in an internal loop. These findings suggest that the overall structure of the HIV-2 genome has evolved to facilitate an optimal interaction with its tRNA primer
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1178
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1993

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