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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2012 Feb;22(1):65-71. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Nucleic acid packaging in viruses.

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


We review recent literature describing protein nucleic acid interactions and nucleic acid organization in viruses. The nature of the viral genome determines its overall organization and its interactions with the capsid protein. Genomes composed of single strand (ss) RNA and DNA are highly flexible and, in some cases, adapt to the symmetry of the particle-forming protein to show repeated, sequence independent, nucleoprotein interactions. Genomes composed of double-stranded (ds) DNA do not interact strongly with the container due to their intrinsic stiffness, but form well-organized layers in virions. Assembly of virions with ssDNA and ssRNA genomes usually occurs through a cooperative condensation of the protein and genome, while dsDNA viruses usually pump the genome into a preformed capsid with a strong, virally encoded, molecular motor complex. We present data that suggest the packing density of ss genomes and ds genomes are comparable, but the latter exhibit far higher pressures due to their stiffness.

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