Studies on the assembly of a spherical plant virus. I. States of aggregation of the isolated protein

K. W. Adolph, P. J.G. Butler

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The aggregates formed at equilibrium by purified protein from cowpea chlorotic mottle virus have been characterized on the basis of their sedimentation behaviour and appearance in the electron microscope. Between pH 3.5 and 7.5, at ionic strengths greater than 0.2, most of the protein is found in aggregates sedimenting at either 3 S or 50 S. The 50 S aggregate is identified as the reassembled capsid of cowpea ehlorotic mottle virus. Decreasing the ionic strength favours the formation of multi-shelled particles. Below pH 5.5 single- and multishelled particles predominate, while above this pH most of the protein sediments at 3 S. Varying the temperature from 5 °C to 20 °C has little effect on the equilibrium proportions of aggregates although some real differences can be detected. Ionic strength is not as important a variable as pH in determining which protein forms are present (but increasing ionic strength does result in a steady decrease in the proportion of protein in the multi-layer aggregates). The dependence of the equilibrium upon protein concentration shows that capsid formation is a quasi-crystallization: beyond a certain total protein concentration the concentration of 3 S aggregate remains at this "critical" concentration and all further protein goes into 50 S capsid. In addition to shells and variations upon shells, tubes and hexagonal nets of protein subunits have occasionally been seen with the electron microscope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 15 1974


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