Evidence for an electrostatic mechanism of force generation by the bacteriophage T4 DNA packaging motor.
ABSTRACT: How viral packaging motors generate enormous forces to translocate DNA into viral capsids remains unknown. Recent structural studies of the bacteriophage T4 packaging motor have led to a proposed mechanism wherein the gp17 motor protein translocates DNA by transitioning between extended and compact states, orchestrated by electrostatic interactions between complimentarily charged residues across the interface between the N- and C-terminal subdomains. Here we show that site-directed alterations in these residues cause force dependent impairments of motor function including lower translocation velocity, lower stall force and higher frequency of pauses and slips. We further show that the measured impairments correlate with computed changes in free-energy differences between the two states. These findings support the proposed structural mechanism and further suggest an energy landscape model of motor activity that couples the free-energy profile of motor conformational states with that of the ATP hydrolysis cycle.
Project description:Many viruses utilize molecular motors to package their genomes into preformed capsids. A striking feature of these motors is their ability to generate large forces to drive DNA translocation against entropic, electrostatic, and bending forces resisting DNA confinement. A model based on recently resolved structures of the bacteriophage T4 motor protein gp17 suggests that this motor generates large forces by undergoing a conformational change from an extended to a compact state. This transition is proposed to be driven by electrostatic interactions between complementarily charged residues across the interface between the N- and C-terminal domains of gp17. Here we use atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to investigate in detail the molecular interactions and residues involved in such a compaction transition of gp17. We find that although electrostatic interactions between charged residues contribute significantly to the overall free energy change of compaction, interactions mediated by the uncharged residues are equally if not more important. We identify five charged residues and six uncharged residues at the interface that play a dominant role in the compaction transition and also reveal salt bridging, van der Waals, and solvent hydrogen-bonding interactions mediated by these residues in stabilizing the compact form of gp17. The formation of a salt bridge between Glu309 and Arg494 is found to be particularly crucial, consistent with experiments showing complete abrogation in packaging upon Glu309Lys mutation. The computed contributions of several other residues are also found to correlate well with single-molecule measurements of impairments in DNA translocation activity caused by site-directed mutations.
Project description:Tailed bacteriophages and herpes viruses use powerful molecular motors to translocate DNA into a preassembled prohead and compact the DNA to near crystalline density. The phage T4 motor, a pentamer of 70-kDa large terminase, gp17, is the fastest and most powerful motor reported to date. gp17 has an ATPase activity that powers DNA translocation and a nuclease activity that cuts concatemeric DNA and generates the termini of viral genome. An 18-kDa small terminase, gp16, is also essential, but its role in DNA packaging is poorly understood. gp16 forms oligomers, most likely octamers, exhibits no enzymatic activities, but stimulates the gp17-ATPase activity, and inhibits the nuclease activity. Extensive mutational and biochemical analyses show that gp16 contains three domains, a central oligomerization domain, and N- and C-terminal domains that are essential for ATPase stimulation. Stimulation occurs not by nucleotide exchange or enhanced ATP binding but by triggering hydrolysis of gp17-bound ATP, a mechanism reminiscent of GTPase-activating proteins. gp16 does not have an arginine finger but its interaction with gp17 seems to position a gp17 arginine finger into the catalytic pocket. gp16 inhibits DNA translocation when gp17 is associated with the prohead. gp16 restricts gp17-nuclease such that the putative packaging initiation cut is made but random cutting is inhibited. These results suggest that the phage T4 packaging machine consists of a motor (gp17) and a regulator (gp16). The gp16 regulator is essential to coordinate the gp17 motor ATPase, translocase, and nuclease activities, otherwise it could be suicidal to the virus.
Project description:Tailed bacteriophages use powerful molecular motors to package the viral genome into a preformed capsid. Packaging at a rate of up to ?2000 bp/s and generating a power density twice that of an automobile engine, the phage T4 motor is the fastest and most powerful reported to date. Central to DNA packaging are dynamic interactions among the packaging components, capsid (gp23), portal (gp20), motor (gp17, large "terminase"), and regulator (gp16, small terminase), leading to precise orchestration of the packaging process, but the mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we analyzed the interactions between small and large terminases of T4-related phages. Our results show that the gp17 packaging ATPase is maximally stimulated by homologous, but not heterologous, gp16. Multiple interaction sites are identified in both gp16 and gp17. The specificity determinants in gp16 are clustered in the diverged N- and C-terminal domains (regions I-III). Swapping of diverged region(s), such as replacing C-terminal RB49 region III with that of T4, switched ATPase stimulation specificity. Two specificity regions, amino acids 37-52 and 290-315, are identified in or near the gp17-ATPase "transmission" subdomain II. gp16 binding at these sites might cause a conformational change positioning the ATPase-coupling residues into the catalytic pocket, triggering ATP hydrolysis. These results lead to a model in which multiple weak interactions between motor and regulator allow dynamic assembly and disassembly of various packaging complexes, depending on the functional state of the packaging machine. This might be a general mechanism for regulation of the phage packaging machine and other complex molecular machines.
Project description:In genome packaging by tailed bacteriophages and herpesviruses, a concatemeric DNA is cut and inserted into an empty procapsid. A series of cuts follow the encapsidation of each unit-length 'headful' genome, but the mechanisms by which cutting is coupled to packaging are not understood. Here we report the first biochemical characterization of a headful nuclease from bacteriophage T4. Our results show that the T4 nuclease, which resides in the C-terminal domain of large 'terminase' gp17, is a weak endonuclease and regulated by a variety of factors; Mg, NaCl, ATP, small terminase gp16 and N-terminal ATPase domain. The small terminase, which stimulates gp17-ATPase, also stimulates nuclease in the presence of ATP but inhibits in the absence of ATP suggesting interdomain crosstalk. Comparison of the 'relaxed' and 'tensed' states of the motor show that a number of basic residues lining the nuclease groove are positioned to interact with DNA in the tensed state but change their positions in the relaxed state. These results suggest that conformational changes in the ATPase center remodel the nuclease center via an interdomain 'communication track'. This might be a common regulatory mechanism for coupling DNA cutting to DNA packaging among the headful packaging nucleases from dsDNA viruses.
Project description:The speed at which a molecular motor operates is critically important for the survival of a virus or an organism but very little is known about the underlying mechanisms. Tailed bacteriophage T4 employs one of the fastest and most powerful packaging motors, a pentamer of gp17 that translocates DNA at a rate of up to ?2000-bp/s. We hypothesize, guided by structural and genetic analyses, that a unique hydrophobic environment in the catalytic space of gp17-adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) determines the rate at which the 'lytic water' molecule is activated and OH- nucleophile is generated, in turn determining the speed of the motor. We tested this hypothesis by identifying two hydrophobic amino acids, M195 and F259, in the catalytic space of gp17-ATPase that are in a position to modulate motor speed. Combinatorial mutagenesis demonstrated that hydrophobic substitutions were tolerated but polar or charged substitutions resulted in null or cold-sensitive/small-plaque phenotypes. Quantitative biochemical and single-molecule analyses showed that the mutant motors exhibited 1.8- to 2.5-fold lower rate of ATP hydrolysis, 2.5- to 4.5-fold lower DNA packaging velocity, and required an activator protein, gp16 for rapid firing of ATPases. These studies uncover a speed control mechanism that might allow selection of motors with optimal performance for organisms' survival.
Project description:Many viruses employ ATP-powered motors during assembly to translocate DNA into procapsid shells. Previous reports raise the question if motor function is modulated by substrate DNA sequence: (i) the phage T4 motor exhibits large translocation rate fluctuations and pauses and slips; (ii) evidence suggests that the phage phi29 motor contacts DNA bases during translocation; and (iii) one theoretical model, the 'B-A scrunchworm', predicts that 'A-philic' sequences that transition more easily to A-form would alter motor function. Here, we use single-molecule optical tweezers measurements to compare translocation of phage, plasmid, and synthetic A-philic, GC rich sequences by the T4 motor. We observed no significant differences in motor velocities, even with A-philic sequences predicted to show higher translocation rate at high applied force. We also observed no significant changes in motor pausing and only modest changes in slipping. To more generally test for sequence dependence, we conducted correlation analyses across pairs of packaging events. No significant correlations in packaging rate, pausing or slipping versus sequence position were detected across repeated measurements with several different DNA sequences. These studies suggest that viral genome packaging is insensitive to DNA sequence and fluctuations in packaging motor velocity, pausing and slipping are primarily stochastic temporal events.
Project description:The packaging motor of bacteriophage T4 translocates DNA into the capsid at a rate of up to 2000 bp/s. Such a high rate would require coordination of motor movements at millisecond timescale. Designing a cysteine-less gp17 is essential to generate fluorescently labeled motors and measure distance changes between motor domains by FRET analyses. Here, by using sequence alignments, structural modeling, combinatorial mutagenesis, and recombinational rescue, we replaced all nine cysteines of gp17 and introduced single cysteines at defined positions. These mutant motors retained in vitro DNA packaging activity. Single mutant motors translocated DNA molecules in real time as imaged by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. We discovered, unexpectedly, that a hydrophobic or nonpolar amino acid next to Walker B motif is essential for motor function, probably for efficient generation of OH(-) nucleophile. The ATPase Walker B motif, thus, may be redefined as "?-strand (4-6 hydrophobic-rich amino acids)-DE-hydrophobic/nonpolar amino acid".
Project description:Phage DNA packaging is believed to be driven by a rotary device coupled to an ATPase 'motor'. Recent evidence suggests that the phage DNA packaging motor is one of the strongest force-generating molecular motors reported to date. However, the ATPase center that is responsible for generating this force is unknown. In order to identify the DNA translocating ATPase, the sequences of the packaging/terminase genes of coliphages T4 and RB49 and vibriophages KVP40 and KVP20 have been analyzed. Alignment of the terminase polypeptide sequences revealed a number of functional signatures in the terminase genes 16 and 17. Most importantly, the data provide compelling evidence for an ATPase catalytic center in the N-terminal half of the large terminase subunit gp17. An analogous ATPase domain consisting of conserved functional signatures is also identified in the large terminase subunit of other bacteriophages and herpesviruses. Interestingly, the putative terminase ATPase domain exhibits some of the common features found in the ATPase domain of DEAD box helicases. Residues that would be critical for ATPase catalysis and its coupling to DNA packaging are identified. Com binatorial mutagenesis shows that the predicted threonine residues in the putative ATPase coupling motif are indeed critical for function.
Project description:ATP-powered viral packaging motors are among the most powerful biomotors known. Motor subunits arranged in a ring repeatedly grip and translocate the DNA to package viral genomes into capsids. Here, we use single DNA manipulation and rapid solution exchange to quantify how nucleotide binding regulates interactions between the bacteriophage T4 motor and DNA substrate. With no nucleotides, there is virtually no gripping and rapid slipping occurs with only minimal friction resisting. In contrast, binding of an ATP analog engages nearly continuous gripping. Occasional slips occur due to dissociation of the analog from a gripping motor subunit, or force-induced rupture of grip, but multiple other analog-bound subunits exert high friction that limits slipping. ADP induces comparably infrequent gripping and variable friction. Independent of nucleotides, slipping arrests when the end of the DNA is about to exit the capsid. This end-clamp mechanism increases the efficiency of packaging by making it essentially irreversible.
Project description:DNA packaging by double-stranded DNA bacteriophages and herpesviruses is driven by a powerful molecular machine assembled at the portal vertex of the empty prohead. The phage T4 packaging machine consists of three components: dodecameric portal (gp20), pentameric large terminase motor (gp17), and 11- or 12-meric small terminase (gp16). These components dynamically interact and orchestrate a complex series of reactions to produce a DNA-filled head containing one viral genome per head. Here, we analyzed the interactions between the portal and motor proteins using a direct binding assay, mutagenesis, and structural analyses. Our results show that a portal binding site is located in the ATP hydrolysis-controlling subdomain II of gp17. Mutations at key residues of this site lead to temperature-sensitive or null phenotypes. A conserved helix-turn-helix (HLH) that is part of this site interacts with the portal. A recombinant HLH peptide competes with gp17 for portal binding and blocks DNA translocation. The helices apparently provide specificity to capture the cognate prohead, whereas the loop residues communicate the portal interaction to the ATPase center. These observations lead to a hypothesis in which a unique HLH-portal interaction in the symmetrically mismatched complex acts as a lever to position the arginine finger and trigger ATP hydrolysis. Transiently connecting the critical parts of the motor; subdomain I (ATP binding), subdomain II (controlling ATP hydrolysis), and C-domain (DNA movement), the portal-motor interactions might ensure tight coupling between ATP hydrolysis and DNA translocation.