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J Virol. 2005 Aug;79(16):10540-6.

Involvement of the portal at an early step in herpes simplex virus capsid assembly.

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Department of Microbiology and Cancer Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


DNA enters the herpes simplex virus capsid by way of a ring-shaped structure called the portal. Each capsid contains a single portal, located at a unique capsid vertex, that is composed of 12 UL6 protein molecules. The position of the portal requires that capsid formation take place in such a way that a portal is incorporated into one of the 12 capsid vertices and excluded from all other locations, including the remaining 11 vertices. Since initiation or nucleation of capsid formation is a unique step in the overall assembly process, involvement of the portal in initiation has the potential to cause its incorporation into a unique vertex. In such a mode of assembly, the portal would need to be involved in initiation but not able to be inserted in subsequent assembly steps. We have used an in vitro capsid assembly system to test whether the portal is involved selectively in initiation. Portal incorporation was compared in capsids assembled from reactions in which (i) portals were present at the beginning of the assembly process and (ii) portals were added after assembly was under way. The results showed that portal-containing capsids were formed only if portals were present at the outset of assembly. A delay caused formation of capsids lacking portals. The findings indicate that if portals are present in reaction mixtures, a portal is incorporated during initiation or another early step in assembly. If no portals are present, assembly is initiated in another, possibly related, way that does not involve a portal.

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