Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The genome packaging machinery of dsDNA bacteriophage PRD1

Nelli Karhu

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Division of Genetics and Institute of Biotechnology.

Viral genomes are encapsidated within protective protein shells. This encapsidation can be achieved either by a co-condensation reaction of the nucleic acid and coat proteins, or by first forming empty viral particles which are subsequently packaged with nucleic acid, the latter mechanism being typical for many dsDNA bacteriophages. Bacteriophage PRD1 is an icosahedral, non-tailed dsDNA virus that has an internal lipid membrane, the hallmark of the Tectiviridae family. Although PRD1 has been known to assemble empty particles into which the genome is subsequently packaged, the mechanism for this has been unknown, and there has been no evidence for a separate packaging vertex, similar to the portal structures used for packaging in the tailed bacteriophages and herpesviruses.

In this study, a unique DNA packaging vertex was identified for PRD1, containing the packaging ATPase P9, packaging factor P6 and two small membrane proteins, P20 and P22, extending the packaging vertex to the internal membrane. Lack of small membrane protein P20 was shown to totally abolish packaging, making it an essential part of the PRD1 packaging mechanism. The minor capsid proteins P6 was shown to be an important packaging factor, its absence leading to greatly reduced packaging efficiency. An in vitro DNA packaging mechanism consisting of recombinant packaging ATPase P9, empty procapsids and mutant PRD1 DNA with a LacZ-insert was developed for the analysis of PRD1 packaging, the first such system ever for a virus containing an internal membrane.

A new tectiviral sequence, a linear plasmid called pBClin15, was identified in Bacillus cereus, providing material for sequence analysis of the tectiviruses. Analysis of PRD1 P9 and other putative tectiviral ATPase sequences revealed several conserved sequence motifs, among them a new tectiviral packaging ATPase motif. Mutagenesis studies on PRD1 P9 were used to confirm the significance of the motifs. P9-type putative ATPase sequences carrying a similar sequence motif were identified in several other membrane containing dsDNA viruses of bacterial, archaeal and eukaryotic hosts, suggesting that these viruses may have similar packaging mechanisms. Interestingly, almost the same set of viruses that were found to have similar putative packaging ATPases had earlier been found to share similar coat protein folds and capsid structures, and a common origin for these viruses had been suggested. The finding in this study of similar packaging proteins further supports the idea that these viruses are descendants of a common ancestor.

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Last updated 08.11.2006

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