Ribonuclease H1 (RNase H1) is a widespread enzyme found in a range of organisms from viruses to humans. It is capable of degrading the RNA moiety of DNA-RNA hybrids and requires a bivalent ion for activity. In contrast with most eukaryotes, which have one gene encoding RNase H1, the activity of which depends on Mg2+ ions, Caenorhabditis elegans has four RNase H1-related genes, and one of them has an isoform produced by alternative splicing. However, little is known about the enzymatic features of the proteins encoded by these genes. To determine the differences between these enzymes, we compared the expression patterns of each RNase H1-related gene throughout the development of the nematode and the RNase H activities of their recombinant proteins. We found gene-specific expression patterns and different enzymatic features. In particular, besides the enzyme that displays the highest activity in the presence of Mg2+ ions, C. elegans has another enzyme that shows preference for Mn2+ ion as a cofactor. We characterized this Mn 2+-dependent RNase H1 for the first time in eukaryotes. These results suggest that there are at least two types of RNase H1 in C. elegans depending on the developmental stage of the organism.
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