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J Mol Biol. 1988 Feb 5;199(3):467-74.

Analysis in vivo of the bacteriophage P22 headful nuclease.

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Department of Cellular, Viral and Molecular Biology, University of Utah Medical Center, Salt Lake City 84132.


Bacteriophage P22 packages its double-stranded DNA chromosomes from concatemeric replicating DNA in a processive, sequential fashion. According to this model, during the initial packaging event in such a series the packaging apparatus recognizes a nucleotide sequence, called pac, on the DNA, and then condenses DNA within the coat protein shell unidirectionally (rightward) from that point. DNA ends are generated near the pac site before or during the condensation reaction. The right end of the mature chromosome is created by a cut made in the DNA by the "headful nuclease" after a complete chromosome is condensed within the phage head. Subsequent packaging events on that concatemeric DNA begin at the end generated by the headful cut of the previous event and proceed in the same direction as the previous event. We report here accurate measurements of the P22 chromosome length (43,400( +/- 750) base-pairs, where the uncertainty is the range in observed lengths), genome length (41,830( +/- 315) base-pairs, where the uncertainty represents the accuracy with which the length is known), the terminal redundancy (1600( +/- 750) base-pairs or 3.8( +/- 1.8)%, where the uncertainty is the observed range) and the imprecision in the headful measuring device ( +/- 750 base-pairs or +/- 1.7%). In addition, we present evidence for a weak nucleotide sequence specificity in the headful nuclease. These findings lend further support to, and extend our understanding of, the sequential series model of P22 DNA packaging.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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