ABSTRACT: Conformational switching is an overarching paradigm in which to describe scaffolding protein-mediated virus assembly. However, rapid morphogenesis with small assembly subunits hinders the isolation of early morphogenetic intermediates in most model systems. Consequently, conformational switches are often defined by comparing the structures of virions, procapsids and aberrantly assembled particles. In contrast, X174 morphogenesis proceeds through at least three preprocapsid intermediates, which can be biochemically isolated. This affords a detailed analysis of early morphogenesis and internal scaffolding protein function. Amino acid substitutions were generated for the six C-terminal, aromatic amino acids that mediate most coat-internal scaffolding protein contacts. The biochemical characterization of mutant assembly pathways revealed two classes of molecular defects, protein binding and conformational switching, a novel phenotype. The conformational switch mutations kinetically trapped assembly intermediates before procapsid formation. Although mutations trapped different particles, they shared common second-site suppressors located in the viral coat protein. This suggests a fluid assembly pathway, one in which the scaffolding protein induces a single, coat protein conformational switch and not a series of sequential reactions. In this model, an incomplete or improper switch would kinetically trap intermediates.
Journal of Virology 07/2012; 86(18):9911-8. · 5.40 Impact Factor