The spindle-shaped virion morphology is common among archaeal viruses, where it is a defining characteristic of many viral families. However, structural heterogeneity intrinsic to spindle-shaped viruses has seriously hindered efforts to elucidate the molecular architecture of these lemon-shaped capsids. We have utilized a combination of cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to study Acidianus tailed spindle virus (ATSV). These studies reveal the architectural principles that underlie assembly of a spindle-shaped virus. Cryo-electron tomography shows a smooth transition from the spindle-shaped capsid into the tubular-shaped tail and allows low-resolution structural modeling of individual virions. Remarkably, higher-dose 2D micrographs reveal a helical surface lattice in the spindle-shaped capsid. Consistent with this, crystallographic studies of the major capsid protein reveal a decorated four-helix bundle that packs within the crystal to form a four-start helical assembly with structural similarity to the tube-shaped tail structure of ATSV and other tailed, spindle-shaped viruses. Combined, this suggests that the spindle-shaped morphology of the ATSV capsid is formed by a multistart helical assembly with a smoothly varying radius and allows construction of a pseudoatomic model for the lemon-shaped capsid that extends into a tubular tail. The potential advantages that this novel architecture conveys to the life cycle of spindle-shaped viruses, including a role in DNA ejection, are discussed.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Feb 27 2018|