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J Struct Biol. 1992 Jan-Feb;108(1):35-48.

3-D reconstruction of bluetongue virus tubules using cryoelectron microscopy.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Structurale, France.


Bluetongue virus (BTV) forms tubules in infected mammalian cells. These tubules are virally encoded entities which can be formed with only one protein, NS1. The NS1 protein does not form a part of virus particles, and its function in viral infection is uncertain. Expression of the NS1 gene in insect cells by recombinant baculovirus yields high amounts of NS1 tubules (ca. 50% of cellular proteins) which are morphologically and immunologically similar to authentic BTV NS1 and can be isolated to about 90% purity. The structure of these synthetic NS1 tubules was investigated by cryoelectron microscopy. NS1 tubules are on average 52.3 nm in diameter and up to 100 nm long. The structure of their helical surface lattice has been determined using computer image processing to a resolution of 40 A. The NS1 protein is about 5.3 nm in diameter and forms a dimer-like structure, so that the tubules are composed of helically coiled ribbons of NS1 "dimers," with 21 or 22 dimers per turn. The surface lattice displays P2 symmetry and forms a one-start helix with a pitch of 9.1 nm. The NS1 tubules exist in two slightly different pH-dependent conformational states.

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