The complex protein capsids of many viruses exhibit dramatic reorganizations at critical stages in their life-cycle. Here, time-resolved solution X-ray scattering was used to study a dynamic, large-scale conformational maturation of the 420 subunit, 13 MDa, icosahedrally symmetric HK97 bacteriophage capsid. Isoscattering points in the time-resolved scattering patterns and singular value decomposition revealed that the expansion occurs as a cooperative, two-state reaction. The analysis demonstrates that the population shift from Prohead-II to Expansion Intermediate I, EI-I (60 Å larger than Prohead-II) occurs in minutes, but does not reveal the time required for individual transitions that occur stochastically. Any intermediate forms that may be traversed during this conversion are unstable and do not constitute an appreciable population of the ensemble of particles. In an energetic landscape view, particles must undergo an energy barrier-crossing event in order to successfully convert from Prohead-II to EI-I. This implies that the particles “hop” over the energy barrier stochastically as they individually attain an expansion-active state. Interestingly, systematic deviations from single-exponential kinetics were observed for the population shift. This may indicate that in undergoing the irreversible conversion from Prohead-II to EI-I, particles are subject to a complex energy landscape that links the initial and final particle forms.
Journal of Molecular Biology – Elsevier
Published: Sep 23, 2005
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