Bacteriophage P22 belongs to a family of double-stranded DNA viruses that share common morphogenetic features like DNA packaging into a procapsid precursor and maturation. Maturation involves cooperative expansion of the procapsid shell with concomitant lattice stabilization. The expansion is thought to be mediated by movement of two coat protein domains around a hinge. The metastable conformation of subunit within the procapsid lattice is considered to constitute a late folding intermediate. In order to understand the mechanism of expansion it is necessary to characterize the interactions stabilizing procapsid and mature capsid lattices, respectively. We employ pressure dissociation to compare subunit packing within the procapsid and expanded lattice. Procapsid shells contain larger cavities than the expanded shells, presumably due to polypeptide packing defects. These defects contribute to the metastable nature of the procapsid lattice and are cured during expansion. Improved packing contributes to the increased stability of the expanded shell. Comparison of two temperature-sensitive folding (tsf) mutants of coat protein (T294I and W48Q) with wild-type coat revealed that both mutations markedly destabilized the procapsid shell and yet had little effect on relative stability of the monomeric subunit. Thus, the regions affected by these packing defects constitute subunit interfaces of the procapsid shell. The larger activation volume of pressure dissociation observed for both T294I and W48Q indicates that the decreased stability of these particles is due to increase of cavity defects. These defects in the procapsid lattice are cured upon expansion suggesting that the intersubunit contacts affected by tsf mutations are absent or rearranged in the mature shell. The energetics of the in vitro expansion reaction also suggests that entropic stabilization contributes to the large free energy barrier for expansion.
Bacteriophage P22, Capsid, Kinetics, Point Mutation, Pressure, Protein Conformation, Protein Folding, Protein Precursors, Temperature, Thermodynamics