Nucleic acids research 2017 01 20() pii 10.1093/nar/gkx004
Replication of human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) involves conversion of its single-stranded RNA genome to double-stranded DNA, which is integrated into the genome of the host. This conversion is catalyzed by reverse transcriptase (RT), which possesses DNA polymerase and RNase H domains. The available crystal structures suggest that at any given time the RNA/DNA substrate interacts with only one active site of the two domains of HIV-1 RT. Unknown is whether a simultaneous interaction of the substrate with polymerase and RNase H active sites is possible. Therefore, the mechanism of the coordination of the two activities is not fully understood. We performed molecular dynamics simulations to obtain a conformation of the complex in which the unwound RNA/DNA substrate simultaneously interacts with the polymerase and RNase H active sites. When the RNA/DNA hybrid was immobilized at the polymerase active site, RNase H cleavage occurred, experimentally verifying that the substrate can simultaneously interact with both active sites. These findings demonstrate the existence of a transient conformation of the HIV-1 RT substrate complex, which is important for modulating and coordinating the enzymatic activities of HIV-1 RT.