Reverse transcriptase, also called RNA-directed DNA polymerase, an enzyme encoded from the genetic material of retroviruses that catalyzes the transcription of retrovirus RNA (ribonucleic acid) into DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). This catalyzed transcription is the reverse process of normal cellular transcription of DNA into RNA, hence the names reverse transcriptase and retrovirus. Reverse transcriptase is central to the infectious nature of retroviruses, several of which cause disease in humans, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and human T-cell lymphotrophic virus I (HTLV-I), which causes leukemia. Reverse transcriptase is also a fundamental component of a laboratory technology known as reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), a powerful tool used in research and in the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer.
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