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J Mol Biol. 1987 Aug 20;196(4):845-51.

Characterization of the bacteriophage T3 DNA packaging reaction in vitro in a defined system.

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Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, Japan.


The bacteriophage T3 DNA packaging system in vitro defined here is composed of purified proheads and two non-capsid proteins, the products of genes 18 and 19 (gp18 and gp19). In this system, a precursor complex (50 S complex) accumulates in the presence of adenosine 5'-O-(3'-thiotriphosphate) (ATP-gamma-S), a non-hydrolyzable analog of ATP. The 50 S complex is converted to a filled head in the presence of ATP. The conversion of the 50 S complex, formed by preincubation with ATP-gamma-S, to the mature head proceeds in a synchronous manner after the addition of ATP. The lag time for formation of mature heads from the 50 S complex is 1.8, 4.5 and 6.8 minutes at 30, 25 and 20 degrees C, respectively. DNA is translocated into the capsid at a constant rate of 5.7 x 10(3) base-pairs per minute at 20 degrees C. The conversion of the 50 S complex to the mature head exhibits a sigmoidal relationship with respect to the concentration of ATP, the concentration for half-maximal activity being about 20 microM. The transition of the prohead to the expanded capsid occurs at 20 degrees C at one minute 40 seconds after the initiation of DNA translocation, when one-fourth of the genome has been packaged into a prohead. At the same time, the capsid-DNA complex becomes stable to high concentrations of salt. When DNA translocation is interrupted by the addition of ATP-gamma-S, packaged DNA exists at 0 degrees C as well as at 20 degrees C but the exit of DNA stops after one-third of the genome is inside the capsid. After exit, DNA is retranslocated into the expanded capsid by the addition of ATP at a rate of about 5.7 x 10(3) base-pairs per minute at 20 degrees C. The decrease in concentration of ATP interrupts DNA translocation into the capsid but does not induce DNA exit. Interrupted DNA translocation may be reinitiated by the addition of ATP. DNA exit is not induced by the addition of ATP-gamma-S to mature heads or partially filled heads pretreated with DNase.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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