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EMBO J. 2001 Dec 17;20(24):7229-39.

Translocation portals for the substrates and products of a viral transcription complex: the bluetongue virus core.

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Division of Structural Biology, The Henry Wellcome Building for Genomic Medicine, Oxford University, Roosevelt Drive, Headington, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK.


The bluetongue virus core is a molecular machine that simultaneously and repeatedly transcribes mRNA from 10 segments of viral double-stranded RNA, packaged in a liquid crystalline array. To determine how the logistical problems of transcription within a sealed shell are solved, core crystals were soaked with various ligands and analysed by X-ray crystallography. Mg(2+) ions produce a slight expansion of the capsid around the 5-fold axes. Oligonucleotide soaks demonstrate that the 5-fold pore, opened up by this expansion, is the exit site for mRNA, whilst nucleotide soaks pinpoint a separate binding site that appears to be a selective channel for the entry and exit of substrates and by-products. Finally, nucleotides also bind to the outer core layer, providing a substrate sink.

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