The φX174 external scaffolding protein D mediates the assembly of coat protein pentamers into procapsids. There are four external scaffolding subunits per coat protein. Organized as pairs of asymmetric dimers, the arrangement is unrelated to quasi-equivalence. The external scaffolding protein contains seven α-helices. The protein's core, α-helices 2 to 6, mediates the vast majority of intra- and interdimer contacts and is strongly conserved in all Microviridae (canonical members are φX174, G4, and α3) external scaffolding proteins. On the other hand, the primary sequences of the first α-helices have diverged. The results of previous studies with α3/φX174 chimeric external scaffolding proteins suggest that α-helix 1 may act as a substrate specificity domain, mediating the initial coat scaffolding protein recognition in a species-specific manner. However, the low sequence conservation between the two phages impeded genetic analyses. In an effort to elucidate a more mechanistic model, chimeric external scaffolding proteins were constructed between the more closely related phages G4 and αX174. The results of biochemical analyses indicate that the chimeric external scaffolding protein inhibits two morphogenetic steps: the initiation of procapsid formation and DNA packaging. φX174 mutants that can efficiently utilize the chimeric protein were isolated and characterized. The substitutions appear to suppress both morphogenetic defects and are located in threefold-related coat protein sequences that most likely form the pores in the viral procapsid. These results identify coat-external scaffolding domains needed to initiate procapsid formation and provide more evidence, albeit indirect, that the pores are the site of DNA entry during the packaging reaction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science