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

Oliver W. Bayfield, Evgeny Klimuk, Dennis C. Winkler, Emma L. Hesketh, Maria Chechik, Naiqian Cheng, Eric C. Dykeman, Leonid Minakhin, Neil A. Ranson, Konstantin Severinov, Alasdair C. Steven, Alfred A. Antson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)

    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 thermo-stable 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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3556-3561
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Volume116
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2019

    Keywords

    • Capsid
    • Cryo-EM
    • DNA packaging
    • Portal protein
    • Virus assembly

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