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Template switching by a group II intron reverse transcriptase: biochemical analysis and implications for RNA-seq

By Alfred M Lentzsch, Jun Yao, Rick Russell, Alan M Lambowitz

Posted 03 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/792986 (published DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011337)

The reverse transcriptases (RTs) encoded by mobile group II intron and other non-LTR-retroelements differ from retroviral RTs in being able to template switch from the 5' end of one template to the 3' end of another without pre-existing complementarity between the donor and acceptor nucleic acids. Here, we used the ability of a thermostable group II intron RT (TGIRT; GsI-IIC RT) to template switch directly from synthetic RNA template/DNA primer duplexes having either a blunt end or a 3'-DNA overhang end to establish a complete kinetic framework for the reaction and identify conditions that more efficiently capture acceptor RNAs or DNAs. The rate and amplitude of template switching are optimal from starter duplexes with a single nucleotide 3'-DNA overhang complementary to the 3' nucleotide of the acceptor RNA, suggesting a role for non-templated nucleotide addition of a complementary nucleotide to the 3' end of cDNAs synthesized from natural templates. Longer 3'-DNA overhangs progressively decrease the rate of template switching, even when complementary to the 3' end of the acceptor template. The reliance on a single base pair with the 3' nucleotide of the acceptor together with discrimination against mismatches and the high processivity of the enzyme enable synthesis of full-length DNA copies of nucleic acids beginning directly at their 3' end. We discuss possible biological functions of the template-switching activity of group II intron and other non-LTR-retroelements RTs, as well as the optimization of this activity for adapter addition in RNA-and DNA-seq.

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