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J Mol Biol. 2008 May 2;378(3):726-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.02.059. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Insight into DNA and protein transport in double-stranded DNA viruses: the structure of bacteriophage N4.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-0647, USA.


Bacteriophage N4 encapsidates a 3500-aa-long DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (vRNAP), which is injected into the host along with the N4 genome upon infection. The three-dimensional structures of wild-type and mutant N4 viruses lacking gp17, gp50, or gp65 were determined by cryoelectron microscopy. The virion has an icosahedral capsid with T=9 quasi-symmetry that encapsidates well-organized double-stranded DNA and vRNAP. The tail, attached at a unique pentameric vertex of the head, consists of a neck, 12 appendages, and six ribbons that constitute a non-contractile sheath around a central tail tube. Comparison of wild-type and mutant virus structures in conjunction with bioinformatics established the identity and virion locations of the major capsid protein (gp56), a decorating protein (gp17), the vRNAP (gp50), the tail sheath (gp65), the appendages (gp66), and the portal protein (gp59). The N4 virion organization provides insight into its assembly and suggests a mechanism for genome and vRNAP transport strategies utilized by this unique system.

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