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Virology. 1998 Mar 1;242(1):118-27.

DNA requirements in vivo for phage T4 packaging.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore 21201-1503, USA.


Phage T4 terminase, comprising the products of genes 16 and 17, packages headfuls of DNA from a concatemer but its mechanism of DNA recognition remains to be determined. Phage T4 terminase gene sequences were introduced into prophage lambda imm434 and plasmids in order to assess their effect on packaging as measured by transduction frequency and DNA content of T4-transducing particles. Multiple copy prophage lambda imm434 genes were transduced at 100-fold higher frequency, and high copy plasmids were transduced at 1000-fold higher frequency than single copy prophage or chromosomal genes T4 16 gene inserts enhanced both prophage and plasmid packaging; terminase gene-containing plasmid DNA in T4 transducing particles could exceed 10% of the total. Deletion or base change of the 24-bp gene 16 3' region which is required for sequence specific amplification of terminase gene 17 (Hp 17 mutations) depressed these elevated plasmid transduction frequencies, suggesting that this is a preferred T4 pac sequence. Moreover, a specific gene 16-containing pac fragment could be detected in mature, packaged phage T4 DNA following restriction endonuclease digestion. We conclude that both the copy number of homologous sequences and the DNA pac sequence(s) themselves are important for packaging, consistent with a synapsis model for regulation of terminase cutting and packaging in phage T4.

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