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Structure. 2010 Dec 8;18(12):1579-86. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2010.10.005.

In vivo assembly of an archaeal virus studied with whole-cell electron cryotomography.

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Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


We applied whole-cell electron cryotomography to the archaeon Sulfolobus infected by Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus (STIV), which belongs to the PRD1-Adeno lineage of dsDNA viruses. STIV infection induced the formation of pyramid-like protrusions with sharply defined facets on the cell surface. They had a thicker cross-section than the cytoplasmic membrane and did not contain an exterior surface protein layer (S-layer). Intrapyramidal bodies often occupied the volume of the pyramids. Mature virions, procapsids without genome cores, and partially assembled particles were identified, suggesting that the capsid and inner membrane coassemble in the cytoplasm to form a procapsid. A two-class reconstruction using a maximum likelihood algorithm demonstrated that no dramatic capsid transformation occurred upon DNA packaging. Virions tended to form tightly packed clusters or quasicrystalline arrays while procapsids mostly scattered outside or on the edges of the clusters. The study revealed vivid images of STIV assembly, maturation, and particle distribution in cell.

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