Genetic and Biochemical Assays Reveal a Key Role for Replication Restart Proteins in Group II Intron Retrohoming

Jun Yao, David M. Truong, Alan M. Lambowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mobile group II introns retrohome by an RNP-based mechanism in which the intron RNA reverse splices into a DNA site and is reverse transcribed by the associated intron-encoded protein. The resulting intron cDNA is then integrated into the genome by cellular mechanisms that have remained unclear. Here, we used an Escherichia coli genetic screen and Taqman qPCR assay that mitigate indirect effects to identify host factors that function in retrohoming. We then analyzed mutants identified in these and previous genetic screens by using a new biochemical assay that combines group II intron RNPs with cellular extracts to reconstitute the complete retrohoming reaction in vitro. The genetic and biochemical analyses indicate a retrohoming pathway involving degradation of the intron RNA template by a host RNase H and second-strand DNA synthesis by the host replicative DNA polymerase. Our results reveal ATP-dependent steps in both cDNA and second-strand synthesis and a surprising role for replication restart proteins in initiating second-strand synthesis in the absence of DNA replication. We also find an unsuspected requirement for host factors in initiating reverse transcription and a new RNA degradation pathway that suppresses retrohoming. Key features of the retrohoming mechanism may be used by human LINEs and other non-LTR-retrotransposons, which are related evolutionarily to mobile group II introns. Our findings highlight a new role for replication restart proteins, which function not only to repair DNA damage caused by mobile element insertion, but have also been co-opted to become an integral part of the group II intron retrohoming mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003469
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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