Role of the CCA Bulge of Prohead RNA of Bacteriophage ø29 in DNA Packaging

Wei Zhao, Marc C. Morais, Dwight L. Anderson, Paul J. Jardine, Shelley Grimes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The oligomeric ring of prohead RNA (pRNA) is an essential component of the ATP-driven DNA packaging motor of bacteriophage ø29. The A-helix of pRNA binds the DNA translocating ATPase gp16 (gene product 16) and the CCA bulge in this helix is essential for DNA packaging in vitro. Mutation of the bulge by base substitution or deletion showed that the size of the bulge, rather than its sequence, is primary in DNA packaging activity. Proheads reconstituted with CCA bulge mutant pRNAs bound the packaging ATPase gp16 and the packaging substrate DNA-gp3, although DNA translocation was not detected with several mutants. Prohead/bulge-mutant pRNA complexes with low packaging activity had a higher rate of ATP hydrolysis per base pair of DNA packaged than proheads with wild-type pRNA. Cryoelectron microscopy three-dimensional reconstruction of proheads reconstituted with a CCA deletion pRNA showed that the protruding pRNA spokes of the motor occupy a different position relative to the head when compared to particles with wild-type pRNA. Therefore, the CCA bulge seems to dictate the orientation of the pRNA spokes. The conformational changes observed for this mutant pRNA may affect gp16 conformation and/or subsequent ATPase-DNA interaction and, consequently, explain the decreased packaging activity observed for CCA mutants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 14 2008


  • DNA packaging
  • RNA structure
  • bacteriophage ø29
  • cryoEM 3D reconstruction
  • prohead RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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