Lambda-like double-stranded (ds) DNA bacteriophage undergo massive conformational changes in their capsid shell during the packaging of their viral genomes. Capsid shells are complex organizations of hundreds of protein subunits that assemble into intricate quaternary complexes that ultimately are able to withstand over 50 atm of pressure during genome packaging . The extensive integration between subunits in capsids requires the formation of an intermediate complex, termed a procapsid, from which individual subunits can undergo the necessary refolding and structural rearrangements needed to transition to the more stable capsid. Although various mature capsids have been characterized at atomic resolution, no such procapsid structure is available for a dsDNA virus or bacteriophage. Here we present a procapsid X-ray structure at 3.65 Å resolution, termed prohead II, of the lambda-like bacteriophage HK97, the mature capsid structure of which was previously solved to 3.44 Å (ref. 2 ). A comparison of the two largely different capsid forms has unveiled an unprecedented expansion mechanism that describes the transition. Crystallographic and hydrogen/deuterium exchange data presented here demonstrate that the subunit tertiary structures are significantly different between the two states, with twisting and bending motions occurring in both helical and ॆ-sheet regions. We also identified
Nature – Nature Publishing Group (NPG)
Published: Feb 8, 2009
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