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REVIEW: Thirty Years of Studies of Qβ Replicase: What Have We Learned and What Is Yet to Be Learned?

A. B. Chetverin

Institute of Protein Research, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142290 Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia; E-mail: alexch@vega.protres.ru

Received July 28, 2017; Revision received August 2, 2017
Qβ replicase (RNA-directed RNA polymerase of bacteriophage Qβ) has an unsurpassed capacity to amplify polynucleotides in vitro. In 1986, the Group of Viral RNA Biochemistry was organized at the Institute of Protein Research in order to exploit this property for the synthesis of messenger RNAs to be used in cell-free translation systems. Although the task has not been implemented in full, this work has led to a number of unexpected important results including uncovering the nature of the “template-free” RNA synthesis by Qβ replicase, discovering the ability of RNA molecules for spontaneous recombination, revealing the unusual mechanism Qβ replicase uses to discriminate between its proper and improper templates, and discovering a new function of the largest ribosomal protein S1, that is also one of the replicase subunits. Finally, our work resulted in the invention of the molecular colonies technique that has become the basis for the next generation sequencing methods and provided a new insight into the origin of life. However, Qβ replicase has not yet revealed all its secrets, and its studies promise further interesting findings.
KEY WORDS: RNA-directed RNA polymerase, bacteriophage Qβ, RNA replication, spontaneous RNA synthesis, RNA recombination, molecular colonies, ribosomal protein S1

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297918140031