Composition and mass of the bacteriophage φ29 prohead and virion

Charlene Peterson, Martha Simon, James Hodges, Peter Mertens, Lee Ann Higgins, Edward Egelman, Dwight Anderson

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21 Scopus citations


The protein composition of the Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage φ29 prohead and virion was determined by combustion of gel bands of 3H-labeled proteins. Copy numbers of individual proteins were calculated relative to the 12 copies of the head-tail connector protein. The mean numbers of copies of the major capsid protein in the prohead and virion were 241 and 218, respectively, approaching the 235 copies determined previously by cryoelectron microscopy. The mean numbers of copies of the dimeric head fiber on the prohead and virion were 24 and 31, respectively, demonstrating partial occupancy of the 55 fiber binding sites. Measured copies of neck and tail proteins in the virion included 11 of the lower collar, 58 of the appendage, and 9 of the tail; if the true copies of these proteins are 12, 60, and 9, respectively, the entire neck and tail of φ29 has quasi-sixfold symmetry. The mass of the fiberless prohead with pRNA was about 14.2 MDa, and the mass of the prohead determined by scanning transmission electron microscopy was consistent with the biochemical data. The mass of the fiberless virion containing the 12.8-MDa DNA genome was about 30.4 MDa. A full complement of dimeric fibers on the prohead or virion would increase the mass of the particle by about 3.2 MDa. The data complement studies relating the structure of φ29 components to dynamic functions in morphogenesis and infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Sarah Turnquist and Carmen Varga for technical help. The work was supported by NIH research grants to D.A. and by NIH/NIDCR P30-DE09737 to J.H. The BNL STEM is an NIH Supported Resource Center, NIH P41-RR01777, with additional support provided by DOE, OBER.


  • Bacteriophage φ29 structure
  • φ29 composition
  • φ29 mass


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