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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1974 Jun;71(6):2367-71.

In vitro packaging of satellite phage P4 DNA.


Satellite phage P4 directs the capsid proteins of its helper phage, P2, to form a head which is only one-third the size of the normal P2 head. The P2 head contains a genome of molecular weight 22 x 10(6), while the small P4 head contains a genome with a molecular weight of only 7 x 10(6). We have used in vitro DNA packaging to test whether P2 and P4 phage head sizes are determined by DNA size. The small DNA of satellite phage P4 added to a P2-infected cell extract was packaged primarily into particles containing three copies of the P4 genome. This process occurred with approximately the same efficiency as P2 DNA packaging in the same cell extract. In contrast, the large DNA of P2 was packaged 300-fold less efficiently than the small DNA of P4 in an extract derived from P4-infected, P2-lysogenic cells. These results suggest that DNA size is not sufficient to determine head size. The results are compatible with DNA packaging via the filling of preformed empty capsids.

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