Retrotransposition of the Ll.LtrB group II intron proceeds predominantly via reverse splicing into DNA targets. Academic Article uri icon


  • Catalytic group II introns are mobile retroelements that invade cognate intronless genes via retrohoming, where the introns reverse splice into double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) targets. They can also retrotranspose to ectopic sites at low frequencies. Whereas our previous studies with a bacterial intron, Ll.LtrB, supported frequent use of RNA targets during retrotransposition, recent experiments with a retrotransposition indicator gene indicate that DNA, rather than RNA, is a prominent target, with both dsDNA and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) as possibilities. Thus retrotransposition occurs in both transcriptional sense and antisense orientations of target genes, and is largely independent of homologous DNA recombination and of the endonuclease function of the intron-encoded protein, LtrA. Models based on both dsDNA and ssDNA targeting are presented. Interestingly, retrotransposition is biased toward the template for lagging-strand DNA synthesis, which suggests the possibility of the replication folk as a source of ssDNA. Consistent with some use of ssDNA targets, many retrotransposition sites lack nucleotides critical for the unwinding of target duplex DNA. Moreover, in vitro the intron reverse spliced into ssDNA more efficiently than dsDNA substrates for some of the retrotransposition sites. Furthermore, many bacterial group II introns reside on the lagging-strand template, hinting at a role for DNA replication in intron dispersal in nature.

publication date

  • December 2002