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Virology. 2010 Aug 15;404(1):127-37.

Atomic force microscopy investigation of the giant mimivirus.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3900, USA.


Mimivirus was investigated by atomic force microscopy in its native state following serial degradation by lysozyme and bromelain. The 750-nm diameter virus is coated with a forest of glycosylated protein fibers of lengths about 140 nm with diameters 1.4 nm. Fibers are capped with distinctive ellipsoidal protein heads of estimated Mr=25 kDa. The surface fibers are attached to the particle through a layer of protein covering the capsid, which is in turn composed of the major capsid protein (MCP). The latter is organized as an open network of hexagonal rings with central depressions separated by 14 nm. The virion exhibits an elaborate apparatus at a unique vertex, visible as a star shaped depression on native particles, but on defibered virions as five arms of 50 nm width and 250 nm length rising above the capsid by 20 nm. The apparatus is integrated into the capsid and not applied atop the icosahedral lattice. Prior to DNA release, the arms of the star disengage from the virion and it opens by folding back five adjacent triangular faces. A membrane sac containing the DNA emerges from the capsid in preparation for fusion with a membrane of the host cell. Also observed from disrupted virions were masses of distinctive fibers of diameter about 1 nm, and having a 7-nm periodicity. These are probably contained within the capsid along with the DNA bearing sac. The fibers were occasionally observed associated with toroidal protein clusters interpreted as processive enzymes modifying the fibers.

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