Distinct DNA Exit and Packaging Portals in the Virus Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus

University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States of America
PLoS Biology (Impact Factor: 11.77). 06/2008; 6(5):e114. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060114
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Author Summary

Two fundamental events in viral life cycles are the delivery of viral genomes into host cells and the packaging of these genomes into viral protein capsids. In bacteriophages and herpesviruses, these processes occur linearly along the genome, base pair after base pair, through a single portal located at a unique site in the viral capsid. We have addressed the question of whether such a linear translocation through a single portal also takes place for viruses harboring very large genomes, by studying genome delivery and packaging in the amoeba-infecting virus Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus. With 1.2 million base pairs, this double-stranded DNA genome is the largest documented viral genome. By using electron tomography and cryo-scanning electron microscopy, we identified a large tunnel in the Mimivirus capsid that is formed shortly after infection, following a large-scale opening of the capsid. The tunnel allows the whole viral genome to exit in a rapid, one-step process. DNA encapsidation is mediated by a transient aperture in the capsid that, we suggest, may promote concomitant entry of multiple segments of the viral DNA molecule. These unprecedented modes of viral genome translocation imply that Mimivirus—and potentially other large viruses—evolved mechanisms that allow them to cope effectively with the exit and entry of particularly large genomes.

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