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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Sep;45(6):1631-46.

The DNA site utilized by bacteriophage P22 for initiation of DNA packaging.

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Department of Pathology, University of Utah Medical Center, Salt Lake City 84132, USA.


Virion proteins recognize their cognate nucleic acid for encapsidation into virions through recognition of a specific nucleotide sequence contained within that nucleic acid. Viruses like bacteriophage P22, which have partially circularly permuted, double-stranded virion DNAs, encapsidate DNA through processive series of packaging events in which DNA is recognized for packaging only once at the beginning of the series. Thus a single DNA recognition event programmes the encapsidation of multiple virion chromosomes. The protein product of P22 gene 3, a terminase component, is thought to be responsible for this recognition. The site on the P22 genome that is recognized by the gene 3 protein to initiate packaging series is called the pac site. We report here a strategy for assaying pac site activity in vivo, and the utilization of this system to identify and characterize the site genetically. It is an asymmetric site that spans 22 basepairs and is located near the centre of P22 gene 3.

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