A DNA polymerase enzyme that catalyzes the process of reverse transcription.
Reverse transcriptase makes use of RNA molecule as a template for the synthesis of a complementary DNA strand. It is produced by HIV and other retroviruses in order for them to synthesize DNA from their viral RNA.
Reverse transcription is also found to be involved in the movement of certain mobile genetic elements, such as the Ty plasmid in yeast, in the replication of other viruses such as hepatitis B and possibly in the generation of mammalian pseudogenes.
It was discovered in 1970 by two independent scientists, Howard Temin and David Baltimore.
Synonym: RNA-dependent DNA polymerase, transcriptase.
See also: reverse transcription.