Molecular piracy is a biological phenomenon in which one replicon (the pirate) uses the structural proteins encoded by another replicon (the helper) to package its own genome and thus allow its propagation and spread. Such piracy is dependent on a complex web of interactions between helper and pirate that occur at several levels, from transcriptional control to macromolecular assembly. The best characterized examples of molecular piracy are from the E. coli P2/P4 system and the S. aureus SaPI pathogenicity island/helper system. In both of these cases, the pirate element is mobilized and packaged into phage-like transducing particles assembled from proteins supplied by a helper phage that belongs to the Caudovirales order of viruses (tailed, dsDNA bacteriophages). In this review we will summarize and compare the processes that are involved in molecular piracy in these two systems.
molecular piracy; bacteriophage 80α; Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island mobilization; bacteriophage P2; satellite phage P4; capsid assembly; size determination; derepression; transactivation; interference; DNA packaging; SaPI
80α is a temperate, double-stranded DNA bacteriophage of Staphylococcus aureus that can act as a “helper” for the mobilization of S. aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs), including SaPI1. When SaPI1 is mobilized by 80α, the SaPI genomes are packaged into capsids that are composed of phage proteins, but that are smaller than those normally formed by the phage. This size determination is dependent on SaPI1 proteins CpmA and CpmB. Here, we show that co-expression of the 80α capsid and scaffolding proteins in S. aureus, but not in E. coli, leads to the formation of procapsid-related structures, suggesting that a host co-factor is required for assembly. The capsid and scaffolding proteins also undergo normal N-terminal processing upon expression in S. aureus, implicating a host protease. We also find that SaPI1 proteins CpmA and CpmB promote the formation of small capsids upon co-expression with 80α capsid and scaffolding proteins in S. aureus.
molecular piracy; virus assembly; size determination; procapsid; electron microscopy; scaffolding protein; ribosomal protein L27; co-expression; Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island 1
SaPIs are molecular pirates that exploit helper bacteriophages for their own high frequency mobilization. One striking feature of helper exploitation by SaPIs is redirection of the phage capsid assembly pathway to produce smaller phage-like particles with T=4 icosahedral symmetry rather than T=7 bacteriophage capsids. Small capsids can accommodate the SaPI genome but not that of the helper phage, leading to interference with helper propagation. Previous studies identified two proteins encoded by the prototype element SaPI1, gp6 and gp7, in SaPI1 procapsids but not in mature SaPI1 particles. Dimers of gp6 form an internal scaffold, aiding fidelity of small capsid assembly. Here we show that both SaPI1 gp6 (CpmB) and gp7 (CpmA) are necessary and sufficient to direct small capsid formation. Surprisingly, failure to form small capsids did not restore wild-type levels of helper phage growth, suggesting an additional role for these SaPI1 proteins in phage interference.
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island; procapsid; bacteriophage assembly; cryo-electron microscopy; molecular piracy
Bacteriophage P4 is dependent on structural proteins supplied by a helper phage, P2, to assemble infectious virions. Bacteriophage P2 normally forms an icosahedral capsid with T=7 symmetry from the gpN capsid protein, the gpO scaffolding protein and the gpQ portal protein. In the presence of P4, however, the same structural proteins are assembled into a smaller capsid with T=4 symmetry. This size determination is effected by the P4-encoded protein Sid, which forms an external scaffold around the small P4 procapsids. Size responsiveness (sir) mutants in gpN fail to assemble small capsids even in the presence of Sid. We have produced large and small procapsids by co-expression of gpN with gpO and Sid, respectively, and applied cryo-electron microscopy and three-dimensional reconstruction methods to visualize these procapsids. gpN has an HK97-like fold and interacts with Sid in an exposed loop where the sir mutations are clustered. The T=7 lattice of P2 has dextro handedness, unlike the laevo lattices of other phages with this fold observed so far.
molecular piracy; capsid assembly; morphogenesis; cryo-electron microscopy; three-dimensional reconstruction; HK97 fold
Enveloped virus release is driven by poorly understood proteins that are functional analogs of the coat protein assemblies that mediate intracellular vesicle trafficking. We used differential electron density mapping to detect membrane integration by membrane-bending proteins from five virus families. This demonstrates that virus matrix proteins replace an unexpectedly large portion of the lipid content of the inner membrane face, a generalized feature likely to play a role in reshaping cellular membranes.
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island 1 (SaPI1) is a mobile genetic element that carries genes for several superantigen toxins. SaPI1 is normally stably integrated into the host genome, but can become mobilized by “helper” bacteriophage 80α, leading to the packaging of SaPI1 genomes into phage-like transducing particles that are composed of structural proteins supplied by the helper phage, but having smaller capsids. We show that the SaPI1-encoded protein gp6 is necessary for efficient formation of small capsids. The NMR structure of gp6 reveals a dimeric protein with a helix-loop-helix motif similar to that of bacteriophage scaffolding proteins. The gp6 dimer matches internal densities that bridge capsid subunits in cryo-EM reconstructions of SaPI1 procapsids, suggesting that gp6 acts as an internal scaffolding protein in capsid size determination.
bacteriophage; mobilization; virus assembly; NMR spectroscopy; cryo-electron microscopy
Bacteriophages T7, λ, P22, and P2/P4 (from Escherichia coli), as well as ϕ29 (from Bacillus subtilis), are among the best-studied bacterial viruses. This chapter summarizes published protein interaction data of intraviral protein interactions, as well as known phage–host protein interactions of these phages retrieved from the literature. We also review the published results of comprehensive protein interaction analyses of Pneumococcus phages Dp-1 and Cp-1, as well as coliphages λ and T7. For example, the ≈55 proteins encoded by the T7 genome are connected by ≈43 interactions with another ≈15 between the phage and its host. The chapter compiles published interactions for the well-studied phages λ (33 intra-phage/22 phage-host), P22 (38/9), P2/P4 (14/3), and ϕ29 (20/2). We discuss whether different interaction patterns reflect different phage lifestyles or whether they may be artifacts of sampling. Phages that infect the same host can interact with different host target proteins, as exemplified by E. coli phage λ and T7. Despite decades of intensive investigation, only a fraction of these phage interactomes are known. Technical limitations and a lack of depth in many studies explain the gaps in our knowledge. Strategies to complete current interactome maps are described. Although limited space precludes detailed overviews of phage molecular biology, this compilation will allow future studies to put interaction data into the context of phage biology.
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) are mobile genetic elements that encode virulence factors and depend on helper phages for their mobilization. Such mobilization is specific and depends on the ability of a phage protein to inactivate the SaPI repressor Stl. Phage 80α can mobilize several SaPIs, including SaPI1 and SaPIbov1, via its Sri and Dut proteins, respectively. In many cases, the capsids formed in the presence of the SaPI are smaller than those normally produced by the phage. Two SaPI-encoded proteins, CpmA and CpmB, are involved in this size determination process. S. aureus strain Newman contains four prophages, named φNM1 through φNM4. Phages φNM1 and φNM2 are very similar to phage 80α in the structural genes, and encode almost identical Sri proteins, while their Dut proteins are highly divergent. We show that φNM1 and φNM2 are able to mobilize both SaPI1 and SaPIbov1 and yield infectious transducing particles. The majority of the capsids formed in all cases are small, showing that both SaPIs can redirect the capsid size of both φNM1 and φNM2.
mobile genetic elements; SaPI1; SaPIbov1; bacteriophage assembly; capsid size determination
Bacteriophages are involved in many aspects of the spread and establishment of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus, including the mobilization of genetic elements known as pathogenicity islands (SaPIs), which carry genes for superantigen toxins and other virulence factors. SaPIs are packaged into phage-like transducing particles using proteins supplied by the helper phage. We have used cryo-electron microscopy and icosahedral reconstruction to determine the structure of the procapsid and the mature capsid of 80α, a bacteriophage that can mobilize several different SaPIs. The 80α capsid has T = 7 icosahedral symmetry with the capsid protein organized into pentameric and hexameric clusters that interact via prominent trimeric densities. The 80α capsid protein was modeled based on the capsid protein fold of bacteriophage HK97, and fitted into the 80α reconstructions. The models show that the trivalent interactions are mediated primarily by a 22-residue β hairpin structure called the P loop that is not found in HK97. Capsid expansion is associated with a conformational switch in the spine helix that is propagated throughout the subunit, unlike the domain rotation mechanism in phages HK97 or P22.
procapsid; structure; assembly; three-dimensional reconstruction; pathogenicity island
Most tailed bacteriophages with double-stranded DNA genomes code for a scaffolding protein, which is required for capsid assembly, but is removed during capsid maturation and DNA packaging. The gpO scaffolding protein of bacteriophage P2 also doubles as a maturation protease, while the scaffolding activity is confined to a 90 residue C-terminal “scaffolding” domain. Bacteriophage HK97 lacks a separate scaffolding protein; instead, an N-terminal “delta” domain in the capsid protein appears to serve an analogous role. We asked whether the C-terminal scaffolding domain of gpO could work as a delta domain when fused to the gpN capsid protein. Varying lengths of C-terminal sequences from gpO were fused to the N-terminus of gpN and expressed in E. coli. The presence of just the 41 C-terminal residues of gpO increased the fidelity of assembly and promoted the formation of closed shells, but the shells formed were predominantly small, 40 nm shells, compared to the normal, 55 nm P2 procapsid shells. Larger scaffolding domains fused to gpN caused the formation of shells of varying size and shape. The results suggest that while fusing the scaffolding protein to the capsid protein assists in shell closure, it also restricts the conformational variability of the capsid protein.
Virus; Assembly; Procapsid; Size determination; Cryo-electron microscopy
Bacteriophage P2 encodes a scaffolding protein, gpO, which is required for correct assembly of P2 procapsids from the gpN major capsid protein. The 284 residue gpO protein also acts as a protease, cleaving itself into an N-terminal fragment, O*, that remains in the capsid following maturation. In addition, gpO is presumed to act as the maturation protease for gpN, which is N-terminally processed to N*, accompanied by DNA packaging and capsid expansion. The protease activity of gpO resides in the N-terminal half of the protein. We show that gpO is a classical serine protease, with a catalytic triad comprised of Asp 19, His 48 and Ser 107. The C-terminal 90 amino acids of gpO are required and sufficient for capsid assembly. This fragment contains a long α-helical segment between residues 197 and 257 and exists as a multimer in solution, suggesting that oligomerization is required for scaffolding activity. Correct assembly requires the C-terminal cysteine residue, which is most likely involved in transient gpN interactions. Our results suggest a model for gpO scaffolding action in which the N-terminal half of gpO binds strongly to gpN, while oligomerization of the C-terminal α-helical domain of gpO and transient interactions between Cys 284 and gpN lead to capsid assembly.
virus; structure; morphogenesis; capsid; maturation; chaperone
The Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island SaPI1 carries the gene for the toxic shock syndrome toxin TSST-1 and can be mobilized by infection with S. aureus helper phage 80α. SaPI1 depends on the helper phage for excision, replication and genome packaging. The SaPI1 transducing particles are comprised of proteins encoded by the helper phage, but have a smaller capsid commensurate with the smaller size of the SaPI1 genome. Previous studies identified only 80α-encoded proteins in mature SaPI1 virions, implying that the presumptive SaPI1 capsid size determination function(s) must act transiently during capsid assembly or maturation. In this study, 80α and SaPI1 procapsids were produced by induction of phage mutants lacking functional 80α or SaPI1 small terminase subunits. By cryo-electron microscopy, these procapsids have a rounded shape and an internal scaffolding core. Mass spectrometry (MS) was used to identify all 80α-encoded structural proteins in 80α and SaPI1 procapsids, including several that had not previously been found in the mature capsids. In addition, SaPI1 procapsids contained at least one SaPI1-encoded protein that has been implicated genetically in capsid size determination. MS on full-length phage proteins showed that the major capsid protein and the scaffolding protein are N-terminally processed in both 80α and SaPI1 procapsids.
mass spectrometry; cryo; electron microscopy; bacteriophage; assembly; scaffolding protein
Scaffolding proteins act as chaperones for the assembly of numerous viruses, including most double-stranded DNA bacteriophages. In bacteriophage P2, an internal scaffolding protein, gpO, is required for the assembly of correctly formed viral capsids. Bacteriophage P4 is a satellite phage that has acquired the ability to take control of the P2 genome and use the P2 capsid protein gpN to assemble a capsid that is smaller than the normal P2 capsid. This size determination is dependent on the P4 external scaffolding protein Sid. Although Sid is sufficient to form morphologically correct P4-size capsids, the P2 internal scaffolding protein gpO is required for the formation of viable capsids of both P2 and P4. In most bacteriophages, the scaffolding protein is either proteolytically degraded or exits intact from the capsid after assembly. In the P2/P4 system, however, gpO is cleaved to an N-terminal fragment, O*, that remains inside the mature capsid after DNA packaging. We previously showed that gpO exhibits autoproteolytic activity, which is abolished by removal of the first 25 amino acids. Co-expression of gpN with this N-terminally truncated version of gpO leads to the production of immature P2 procapsid shells. Here, we use protein analysis and mass spectroscopy to show that P2 and P4 virions as well as procapsids isolated from viral infections contain O* and that cleavage occurs between residues 141 and 142 of gpO. By co-expression of gpN with truncated gpO proteins, we show that O* binds to gpN and retains the proteolytic activity of gpO and that the C-terminal 90 residues of gpO (residues 195–284) are sufficient to promote the formation of P2-size procapsids. Using mass spectrometry we have also identified the head completion protein gpL in the virions.
virus assembly; capsid maturation; mass spectrometry
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope (Env) protein is incorporated into HIV virions or virus-like particles (VLPs) at very low levels compared to the glycoproteins of most other enveloped viruses. To test factors that influence HIV Env particle incorporation, we generated a series of chimeric gene constructs in which the coding sequences for the signal peptide (SP), transmembrane (TM), and cytoplasmic tail (CT) domains of HIV-1 Env were replaced with those of other viral or cellular proteins individually or in combination. All constructs tested were derived from HIV type 1 (HIV-1) Con-S ΔCFI gp145, which itself was found to be incorporated into VLPs much more efficiently than full-length Con-S Env. Substitution of the SP from the honeybee protein mellitin resulted in threefold-higher chimeric HIV-1 Env expression levels on insect cell surfaces and an increase of Env incorporation into VLPs. Substitution of the HIV TM-CT with sequences derived from the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) envelope glycoprotein, influenza virus hemagglutinin, or baculovirus (BV) gp64, but not from Lassa fever virus glycoprotein, was found to enhance Env incorporation into VLPs. The highest level of Env incorporation into VLPs was observed in chimeric constructs containing the MMTV and BV gp64 TM-CT domains in which the Gag/Env molar ratios were estimated to be 4:1 and 5:1, respectively, compared to a 56:1 ratio for full-length Con-S gp160. Electron microscopy revealed that VLPs with chimeric HIV Env were similar to HIV-1 virions in morphology and size and contained a prominent layer of Env spikes on their surfaces. HIV Env specific monoclonal antibody binding results showed that chimeric Env-containing VLPs retained conserved epitopes and underwent conformational changes upon CD4 binding.