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Cryo-EM structure and in vitro DNA packaging of a thermophilic virus with supersized T=7 capsids

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JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Jan 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2019
DatePublished (current) - 26 Feb 2019
Issue number9
Volume116
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)3556-3561
Early online date8/02/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Double-stranded DNA viruses, including bacteriophages and herpesviruses, package their genomes into preformed capsids, using ATP-driven motors. Seeking to advance structural and mechanistic understanding, we established in vitro packaging for a thermostable bacteriophage, P23-45 of Thermus thermophilus Both the unexpanded procapsid and the expanded mature capsid can package DNA in the presence of packaging ATPase over the 20 °C to 70 °C temperature range, with optimum activity at 50 °C to 65 °C. Cryo-EM reconstructions for the mature and immature capsids at 3.7-Å and 4.4-Å resolution, respectively, reveal conformational changes during capsid expansion. Capsomer interactions in the expanded capsid are reinforced by formation of intersubunit β-sheets with N-terminal segments of auxiliary protein trimers. Unexpectedly, the capsid has T=7 quasi-symmetry, despite the P23-45 genome being twice as large as those of known T=7 phages, in which the DNA is compacted to near-crystalline density. Our data explain this anomaly, showing how the canonical HK97 fold has adapted to double the volume of the capsid, while maintaining its structural integrity. Reconstructions of the procapsid and the expanded capsid defined the structure of the single vertex containing the portal protein. Together with a 1.95-Å resolution crystal structure of the portal protein and DNA packaging assays, these reconstructions indicate that capsid expansion affects the conformation of the portal protein, while still allowing DNA to be packaged. These observations suggest a mechanism by which structural events inside the capsid can be communicated to the outside.

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© 2019 the Author(s).

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