RNase H digests the RNA strand of an RNA/DNA hybrid. Important enzyme in retroviral replication cycle, and often found as a domain associated with reverse transcriptases. Structure is a mixed alpha+beta fold with three a/b/a layers.
The RNase H domain is responsible for hydrolysis of the RNA portion of RNA x DNA hybrids, and this activity requires the presence of divalent cations (Mg2+ or Mn2+) that bind its active site. This domain is a part of a large family of homologous RNase H enzymes of which the RNase HI protein from Escherichia coli is the best characterised [PUBMED:9741851]. Secondary structure predictions for the enzymes from E. coli, yeast, human liver and diverse retroviruses (such as Rous sarcoma virus and the Foamy viruses) supported, in every case, the five beta-strands (1 to 5) and four or five alpha-helices (A, B/C, D, E) that have been identified by crystallography in the RNase H domain of Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase and in E. coli RNase H [PUBMED:10603172]. Reverse transcriptase (RT) is a modular enzyme carrying polymerase and ribonuclease H (RNase H) activities in separable domains. Reverse transcriptase (RT) converts the single-stranded RNA genome of a retrovirus into a double-stranded DNA copy for integration into the host genome. This process requires ribonuclease H as well as RNA- and DNA-directed DNA polymerase activities.