Studies of drug-resistant reverse transcriptases (RTs) repeal the roles of specific structural elements and amino acids in polymerase function. To characterize better the effects of RT/template interactions on dNTP substrate recognition, we examined the sensitivity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RT containing a new mutation in a 'template grip' residue (P157S) to the 5'-triphosphates of (-)-β-2',3'-dideoxy-3'-thiacytidine (3TC), (-)- β-2',3'-dideoxy-5-fluoro-3'-thiacytidine (FTC), and 3'-azido-3'- deoxythymidine (AZT). A primer extension assay was used to monitor quantitatively drug monophosphate incorporation opposite each of multiple target sites. Wild-type and P157S RTs had similar catalytic activities and processivities on heteropolymeric RNA and DNA templates. When averaged over multiple template sites, P157S RT was 2-7-fold resistant to the 5'- triphosphates of 3TC, FTC, and AZT. Each drug triphosphate inhibited polymerization more efficiently on the DNA template compared with an RNA template of identical sequence. Moreover, chain termination by 3TC and FTC was strongly influenced by template sequence context. Incorporation of FTC and 3TC monophosphate varied up to 10-fold opposite 7 different G residues in the DNA template, and the P157S mutation altered this site specificity. In summary, these data identify Pro157 as an important residue affecting nucleoside analog resistance and suggest that interactions between RT and the template strand influence dNTP substrate recognition at the RT active site. Our findings are discussed within the context of the HIV-1 RT structure.
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