Reverse transcriptases (RTs) are usually thought of as eukaryotic enzymes, but they are also present in bacteria and likely originated in bacteria and migrated to eukaryotes. Only three types of bacterial retroelements have been substantially characterized: group II introns, diversity-generating retroelements, and retrons. Recent work, however, has identified a myriad of uncharacterized RTs and RT-related sequences in bacterial genomes, which exhibit great sequence diversity and a range of domain structures. Apart from group II introns, none of these putative RTs show evidence of active retromobility. Instead, available information suggests that they are involved in useful processes, sometimes related to phages or phage resistance. This article reviews our knowledge of both characterized and uncharacterized RTs in bacteria. The range of their sequences and genomic contexts promises the discovery of new biochemical reactions and biological phenomena.
Zimmerly, S., Wu, L. (2015) An unexplored diversity of reverse transcriptases in bacteria. Microbiology Spectrum. April 2015 3:2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.MDNA3-0058-2014