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J Mol Biol. 1989 Oct 20;209(4):667-81.

Membrane-associated assembly of a phage T4 DNA entrance vertex structure studied with expression vectors.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore 21201.


The DNA entrance vertex of the phage head is critical for prohead assembly and DNA packaging. A single structural protein comprises this dodecameric ring substructure of the prohead. Assembly of the phage T4 prohead occurs on the cytoplasmic membrane through a specific attachment at or near the gp20 DNA entrance vertex. An auxiliary head assembly gene product, gp40, was hypothesized to be involved in assembling the gp20 substructure. T4 genes 20, 40 and 20 + 40 were cloned into expression vectors under lambda pL promoter control. The corresponding T4 gene products were synthesized in high yield and were active as judged by their ability to complement the corresponding infecting T4 mutants in vivo. The cloned T4 gene 20 and gene 40 products were inserted into the cytoplasmic membrane as integral membrane proteins; however, gp20 was inserted into the membrane only when gp40 was also synthesized, whereas gp40 was inserted in the presence or absence of gp20. The gp20 insertion required a membrane potential, was not dependent upon the Escherichia coli groE gene, and assumed a defined membrane-spanning conformation, as judged by specific protease fragments protected by the membrane. The inserted gp20 structure could be probed by antibody binding and protein A-gold immunoelectron microscopy. The data suggest that a specific gp20-gp40-membrane insertion structure constitutes the T4 prohead assembly initiation complex.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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