Experimental and computational studies on the DNA translocation mechanism of the T4 viral packaging motor

TitleExperimental and computational studies on the DNA translocation mechanism of the T4 viral packaging motor
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsA Migliori, G Arya, and DE Smith
Conference NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Date Published12/2012

Bacteriophage T4 is a double stranded DNA virus that infects E.coli by injecting the viral genome through the cellular wall of a host cell. The T4 genome must be ejected from the viral capsid with sufficient force to ensure infection. To generate high ejection forces, the genome is packaged to high density within the viral capsid. A DNA translocation motor, in which the protein gp17 hydrolyzes ATP and binds to the DNA, is responsible for translocating the genome into the capsid during viral maturation of T4. This motor generates forces in excess of 60 pN and packages DNA at rates exceeding 2000 base pairs/second (bp/s) 1 . Understanding these small yet powerful motors is important, as they have many potential applications. Though much is known about the activity of these motors from bulk and single molecule biophysical techniques, little is known about their detailed molecular mechanism. Recently, two structures of gp17 have been obtained: a high-resolution X-ray crystallographic structure showing a monomeric compacted form of the enzyme, and a cryo-electron microscopic structure of the extended form of gp17 in complex with actively packaging prohead complexes. Comparison of these two structures indicates several key differences, and a model has been proposed to explain the translocation action of the motor 2 . Key to this model are a set of residues forming ion pairs across two domains of the gp17 molecule that are proposed to be involved in force generation by causing the collapse of the extended form of gp17. Using a dual optical trap to measure the rates of DNA packaging and the generated forces, we present preliminary mutational data showing that these several of these ion pairs are important to motor function. We have also performed preliminary free energy calculations on the extended and collapsed state of gp17, to confirm that these interdomain ion pairs have large contributions to the change in free energy that occurs upon the collapse of gp17 during the proposed ratcheting mechanism. © 2012 SPIE.