Introduction. Until recently, reverse transcription was considered to be the sole prerogative of retroviruses. Over the last 4 or 5 years it has been recognized that members of two other virus groups, the hepadnaviruses and the caulimoviruses, undergo reverse transcription during replication. Furthermore, some vertebrate genetic elements, e.g. intracisternal A particle (IAP) genes (Ono , 1985), VL30 genes (Hodgson , 1983) and L1Md (Loeb , 1986), and transposable elements from other taxonomic groups [yeast Ty elements (Clare & Farabaugh, 1985; Hauber , 1985), (Mount & Rubin, 1985) and -like elements (Saigo , 1984), DIRS-1 element (Cappello , 1985), maize Bs1 element (Johns , 1985), and possibly maize 1 element (Shepherd , 1984)] have been shown to possess structural similarities to integrated retroviruses. The yeast Ty element transcript has recently been found to be contained within virus-like particles which have reverse transcriptase activity (Garfinkel , 1985; Mellor , 1985).


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