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J Mol Biol. 2001 Jul 27;310(5):1027-37.

Structural organisation of the head-to-tail interface of a bacterial virus.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Genetik, Berlin, Germany.


In tailed icosahedral bacteriophages the connection between the 5-fold symmetric environment of the portal vertex in the capsid and the 6-fold symmetric phage tail is formed by a complex interface structure. The current study provides the detailed analysis of the assembly and structural organisation of such an interface within a phage having a long tail. The region of the interface assembled as part of the viral capsid (connector) was purified from DNA-filled capsids of the Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage SPP1. It is composed of oligomers of gp6, the SPP1 portal protein, of gp15, and of gp16. The SPP1 connector structure is formed by a mushroom-like portal protein whose cap faces the interior of the viral capsid in intact virions, an annular structure below the stem of the mushroom, and a second narrower annulus that is in direct contact with the helical tail extremity. The layered arrangement correlates to the stacking of gp6, gp15, and gp16 on top of the tail. The gp16 ring is exposed to the virion outside. During SPP1 morphogenesis, gp6 participates in the procapsid assembly reaction, an early step in the assembly pathway, while gp15 and gp16 bind to the capsid portal vertex after viral chromosome encapsidation. gp16 is processed during or after tail attachment to the connector region. The portal protein gp6 has 12-fold cyclical symmetry in the connector structure, whereas assembly-naïve gp6 exhibits 13-fold symmetry. We propose that it is the interaction of gp6 with other viral morphogenetic proteins that drives its assembly into the 12-mer state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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