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J Mol Biol. 1996 Jun 7;259(2):249-63.

Conserved features in papillomavirus and polyomavirus capsids.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Capsids of papilloma and polyoma viruses (papovavirus family) are composed of 72 pentameric capsomeres arranged on a skewed icosahedral lattice (triangulation number of seven, T = 7). Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) was reported previously to be a T = 7laevo (left-handed) structure, whereas human wart virus, simian virus 40, and murine polyomavirus were shown to be T = 7dextro (right-handed). The CRPV structure determined by cryoelectron microscopy and image reconstruction was similar to previously determined structures of bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) and human papillomavirus type 1 (HPV-1). CRPV capsids were observed in closed (compact) and open (swollen) forms. Both forms have star-shaped capsomeres, as do BPV-1 and HPV-1, but the open CRPV capsids are approximately 2 nm larger in radius. The lattice hands of all papillomaviruses examined in this study were found to be T = 7dextro. In the region of maximum contact, papillomavirus capsomeres interact in a manner similar to that found in polyomaviruses. Although papilloma and polyoma viruses have differences in capsid size (approximately 60 versus approximately 50 nm), capsomere morphology (11 to 12 nm star-shaped versus 8 nm barrel-shaped), and intercapsomere interactions (slightly different contacts between capsomeres), papovavirus capsids have a conserved, 72-pentamer, T = 7dextro structure. These features are conserved despite significant differences in amino acid sequences of the major capsid proteins. The conserved features may be a consequence of stable contacts that occur within capsomeres and flexible links that form among capsomeres.

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