Although bacteriophage φX174 is easy to propagate and genetically tractable, it is use as a peptide display platform has not been explored. One region within the φX174 major spike protein G tolerated 13 of 16 assayed insertions, ranging from 10 to 75 amino acids. The recombinant proteins were functional and incorporated into infectious virions. In the folded protein, the peptides would be icosahedrally displayed within loops that extend from the protein׳s β-barrel core. The well-honed genetics of φX174 allowed permissive insertions to be quickly identified by the cellular phenotypes associated with cloned gene expression. The cloned genes were easily transferred from plasmids to phage genomes via recombination rescue. Direct ELISA validated several recombinant virions for epitope display. Some insertions conferred a temperature-sensitive (ts) protein folding defect, which was suppressed by global suppressors in protein G, located too far away from the insertion to directly alter peptide display.
C-terminal, aromatic amino acids in the phiX174 internal scaffolding protein B mediate conformational switches in the viral coat protein. These switches direct the coat protein through early assembly. In addition to the aromatic amino acids, two acidic residues, D111 and E113, form salt bridges with basic, coat protein side chains. Although salt bridge formation did not appear to be critical for assembly, the substitution of an aromatic amino acid for D111 produced a lethal phenotype. This side chain is uniquely oriented toward the center of the coat-scaffolding binding pocket, which is heavily dominated by aromatic ring-ring interactions. Thus, the D111Y substitution may restructure pocket contacts. Previously characterized B(-) mutants blocked assembly before procapsid formation. However, the D111Y mutant produced an assembled particle, which contained the structural and external scaffolding proteins but lacked protein B and DNA. A suppressor within the external scaffolding protein, which mediates the later stages of particle morphogenesis, restored viability. The unique formation of a postprocapsid particle and the novel suppressor may be indicative of a novel B protein function. However, genetic data suggest that the particle represents the delayed manifestation of an early assembly error. This seemingly late-acting defect was rescued by previously characterized suppressors of early, preprocapsid, B(-) assembly mutations, which act on the level of coat protein flexibility. Likewise, the newly isolated suppressor in the external scaffolding protein also exhibited a global suppressing phenotype. Thus, the off-pathway product isolated from infected cells may not accurately reflect the temporal nature of the initial defect.
Putative conformational switching and inhibitory regions in the Microviridae external scaffolding protein were investigated. Substitutions for glycine 61, hypothesized to promote a postdimerization conformational switch, have dominant lethal phenotypes. In previous studies, chimeric α3/φX174 proteins for structures α-helix 1 and loop 6/α-helix 7 inhibited φX174 morphogenesis when expressed from high copy number plasmids. To determine if inhibition was due to overexpression, chimeric genes were constructed into the φX174 genome. In coinfections with wild-type, protein ratios would be 1:1. The helix 1 chimera has a recessive lethal phenotype; thus, overexpression confers inhibition. In single infections, the mutant cannot form procapsids, suggesting that helix 1 mediates the initial recognition of structural proteins. The lethal chimeric helix 7 protein has a dominant phenotype. Alone, the mutant forms defective procapsids, suggesting a later morphogenetic defect. The results of second-site genetic analyses indicate that the capsid-external scaffolding protein interface is larger than revealed in the crystal structure. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
The assembly of the viral structural proteins into infectious virions is often mediated by scaffolding proteins. These proteins are transiently associated with morphogenetic intermediates but not found in the mature particle. The genes encoding three Microviridae (∅X174, G4 and α3) internal scaffolding proteins (B proteins) have been cloned, expressed in vivo and assayed for the ability to complement null mutations of different Microviridae species. Despite divergence as great as 70% in amino acid sequence over the aligned length, cross-complementation was observed, indicating that these proteins are capable of directing the assembly of foreign structural proteins into infectious particles. These results suggest that the Microviridae internal scaffolding proteins may be inherently flexible. There was one condition in which a B protein could not cross-function. The ∅X174 B protein cannot productively direct the assembly of the G4 capsid at temperatures above 21°C. Under these conditions, assembly is arrested early in the morphogenetic pathway, before the first B protein mediated reaction. Two G4 mutants, which can productively utilize the ∅X174 B protein at elevated temperatures, were isolated. Both mutations confer amino acid substitutions in the viral coat protein but differ in their relative abilities to utilize the foreign scaffolding protein. The more efficient substitution is located in a region where coat-scaffolding interactions have been observed in the atomic structure and may emphasize the importance of interactions in this region.
Biochemical and genetic data defining the assembly pathway and structural biology of the T4 tail apparatus are merging to create a four-dimensional image reconstruction. Human inventions seem to be large-scale replicas of molecular devices honed by evolution. © 2005 Nature Publishing Group.