Margaret Fuller and Jonathan King (1982) J. Mol. Biol., 156, 633-665.

Assembly in Vitro of Bacteriophage P22 Procapsids from Purified Coat and Scaffolding Subunits.

The coat and scaffolding proteins of bacteriophage P22 procapsids have been purified in soluble form. By incubating both purified proteins with a mutant-infected cell extract lacking procapsids, but competent for DNA packaging in vitro (Poteet et al., 1979), we were able to obtain assembl of biologically active procapsids in vitro. The active species for complementation in vitro in both protein preparations copurified with the soluble subunits, indicating that these subunits represent precursors in procapsid polymerization.

When the purified coat and scaffolding subunits were mixed directly, they polymerized into double-shelled procapsid-like structures during dialysis from 1.5 m-guanidine hydrochloride to buffer. When dailyzed separately under the same conditions, the scaffolding subunits did not polymerize but remained as soluble subunits, as did most of the coat subunits. No evidence was found for self-assembly of the scaffolding protein in the absence of the coat protein.

The unassembled coat subunits sedimented at 3.9 S and the unassembled scaffolding subunits sedimented at 2.4 S in sucrose gradients. The Stokes' radius, determined by gel filtration, was 24 Å
for the coat subunits and 34 Å for the scaffolding subunits. These results indicate taht the scafolding subunits are relatively slender elongated molecules, whereas the coat subunits are more globular.

The experiments suggest that the procapsid is built by copolymerization of the two protein species. Their interaction on the growing surface of the shell structure, and not in solution, appears to regulate successive binding interactions.

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