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Cell. 1991 Mar 8;64(5):1007-15.

Liquid-crystalline, phage-like packing of encapsidated DNA in herpes simplex virus.

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Laboratory of Structural Biology Research, National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The organization of DNA within the HSV-1 capsid has been determined by cryoelectron microscopy and image reconstruction. Purified C-capsids, which are fully packaged, were compared with A-capsids, which are empty. Unlike A-capsids, C-capsids show fine striations and punctate arrays with a spacing of approximately 2.6 nm. The packaged DNA forms a uniformly dense ball, extending radially as far as the inner surface of the icosahedral (T = 16) capsid shell, whose structure is essentially identical in A-capsids and C-capsids. Thus we find no evidence for the inner T = 4 shell previously reported by Schrag et al. to be present in C-capsids. Encapsidated HSV-1 DNA closely resembles that previously visualized in bacteriophages T4 and lambda, thus supporting the idea of a close parallelism between the respective assembly pathways of a major family of animal viruses (the herpesviruses) and a major family of bacterial viruses.

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