We find a new aspect of DNA packaging-associated structural fluidity for phage T3 capsids. The procedure is (1) glutaraldehyde cross-linking of in vivo DNA packaging intermediates for stabilization of structure and then (2) determining of effective radius by two-dimensional agarose gel electrophoresis (2d-AGE). The intermediates are capsids with incompletely packaged DNA (ipDNA) and without an external DNA segment; these intermediates are called ipDNA-capsids. We initially increase production of ipDNA-capsids by raising NaCl concentration during in vivo DNA packaging. By 2d-AGE, we find a new state of contracted shell for some particles of one previously identified ipDNA-capsid. The contracted shell-state is found when ipDNA length/mature DNA length (F) is above 0.17, but not at lower F. Some contracted-shell ipDNA-capsids have the phage tail; others do not. The contracted-shell ipDNA-capsids are explained by premature DNA maturation cleavage that makes accessible a contracted-shell intermediate of a cycle of the T3 DNA packaging motor. The analysis of ipDNA-capsids, rather than intermediates with uncleaved DNA, provides a simplifying strategy for a complete biochemical analysis of in vivo DNA packaging.
average electrical surface charge density; bacteriophage DNA packaging motor; chemical cross-linking; effective particle radius; two-dimensional electrophoresis
The DNA packaging motors of double-stranded DNA phages are models for analysis of all multi-molecular motors and for analysis of several fundamental aspects of biology, including early evolution, relationship of in vivo to in vitro biochemistry and targets for anti-virals. Work on phage DNA packaging motors both has produced and is producing dualities in the interpretation of data obtained by use of both traditional techniques and the more recently developed procedures of single-molecule analysis. The dualities include (1) reductive vs. accretive evolution, (2) rotation vs. stasis of sub-assemblies of the motor, (3) thermal ratcheting vs. power stroking in generating force, (4) complete motor vs. spark plug role for the packaging ATPase, (5) use of previously isolated vs. new intermediates for analysis of the intermediate states of the motor and (6) a motor with one cycle vs. a motor with two cycles. We provide background for these dualities, some of which are under-emphasized in the literature. We suggest directions for future research.
ATPase; DNA packaging; bacteriophage genetics; bacteriophage structure; biological motor; cryo-electron microscopy; single-molecule analysis
We investigate genes of lytic, Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage 0305ϕ8-36 that are non-essential for laboratory propagation, but might have a function in the wild. We isolate deletion mutants to identify these genes. The non-permutation of the genome (218.948 Kb, with a 6.479 Kb terminal repeat and 247 identified orfs) simplifies isolation of deletion mutants. We find two islands of non-essential genes. The first island (3.01% of the genomic DNA) has an informatically identified DNA translocation operon. Deletion causes no detectable growth defect during propagation in a dilute agarose overlay. Identification of the DNA translocation operon begins with a DNA relaxase and continues with a translocase and membrane-binding anchor proteins. The relaxase is in a family, first identified here, with homologs in other bacteriophages. The second deleted island (3.71% of the genome) has genes for two metallo-protein chaperonins and two tRNAs. Deletion causes a significant growth defect. In addition, (1) we find by “in situ” (in-plaque) single-particle fluorescence microscopy that adsorption to the host occurs at the tip of the 486 nm long tail, (2) we develop a procedure of 0305ϕ8-36 purification that does not cause tail contraction, and (3) we then find by electron microscopy that 0305ϕ8-36 undergoes tail tip-tail tip dimerization that potentially blocks adsorption to host cells, presumably with effectiveness that increases as the bacteriophage particle concentration increases. These observations provide an explanation of the previous observation that 0305ϕ8-36 does not lyse liquid cultures, even though 0305ϕ8-36 is genomically lytic.
bacteriophage; deletion mutant; DNA sequencing; electron microscopy; fluorescence microscopy; informatics; long-genome; microbial biofilm
I present a hypothesis that begins with the proposal that abiotic ancestors of phage RNA and DNA packaging systems (and cells) include mobile shells with an internal, molecule-transporting cavity. The foundations of this hypothesis include the conjecture that current nucleic acid packaging systems have imprints from abiotic ancestors. The abiotic shells (1) initially imbibe and later also bind and transport organic molecules, thereby providing a means for producing molecular interactions that are links in the chain of events that produces ancestors to the first molecules that are both information carrying and enzymatically active, and (2) are subsequently scaffolds on which proteins assemble to form ancestors common to both shells of viral capsids and cell membranes. Emergence of cells occurs via aggregation and merger of shells and internal contents. The hypothesis continues by using proposed imprints of abiotic and biotic ancestors to deduce an ancestral thermal ratchet-based DNA packaging motor that subsequently evolves to integrate a DNA packaging ATPase that provides a power stroke.
abiotic ancestors; bacteriophage structure; biological energy transduction; information-carrying polymers; thermal ratchet
Evidence is presented here that in vivo bacteriophage T3 DNA packaging includes capsid hyper-expansion that is triggered by lengthening of incompletely packaged DNA (ipDNA). This evidence includes observation that some of the longer ipDNAs in T3-infected cells are packaged in ipDNA-containing capsids with hyper-expanded outer shells (HE ipDNA-capsids). In addition, artificially induced hyper-expansion is observed for the outer shell of a DNA-free capsid. Detection and characterization of HE ipDNA-capsids is based on non-denaturing two-dimensional agarose gel electrophoresis, followed by structure determination with electron microscopy and protein identification with SDSPAGE/mass spectrometry. After expulsion from HE ipDNA-capsids, ipDNA forms sharp bands during gel electrophoresis. The hypotheses are presented that (1) T3 has evolved feedback-initiated, ATP-driven capsid contraction/hyper-expansion cycles that accelerate DNA packaging when packaging is slowed by increase in the packaging-resisting force of the ipDNA and (2) each gel electrophoretic ipDNA band reflects a contraction/hyper-expansion cycle.
Agarose gel electrophoresis; two-dimensional; Bacteriophage DNA packaging motor; Biological energy transduction; Electron microscopy; Mass spectrometry
The hypothesis is presented that bacteriophage DNA packaging motors have a cycle comprised of bind/release thermal ratcheting with release-associated DNA pushing via ATP-dependent protein folding. The proposed protein folding occurs in crystallographically observed peptide segments that project into an axial channel of a protein 12-mer (connector) that serves, together with a coaxial ATPase multimer, as the entry portal. The proposed cycle begins when reverse thermal motion causes the connector’s peptide segments to signal the ATPase multimer to bind both ATP and the DNA molecule, thereby producing a dwell phase recently demonstrated by single-molecule procedures. The connector-associated peptide segments activate by transfer of energy from ATP during the dwell. The proposed function of connector/ATPase symmetry mismatches is to reduce thermal noise-induced signaling errors. After a dwell, ATP is cleaved and the DNA molecule released. The activated peptide segments push the released DNA molecule, thereby producing a burst phase recently shown to consist of four mini-bursts. The constraint of four mini-bursts is met by proposing that each mini-burst occurs via pushing by three of the 12 subunits of the connector. If all four mini-bursts occur, the cycle repeats. If the mini-bursts are not completed, a second cycle is superimposed on the first cycle. The existence of the second cycle is based on data recently obtained with bacteriophage T3. When both cycles stall, energy is diverted to expose the DNA molecule to maturation cleavage.
bacteriophage structure; biological energy transduction; biological signal noise; cryo-electron microscopy; single-molecule analysis
The tightly packaged dsDNA genome in the mature particles of many tailed bacteriophages has been shown to form multiple concentric rings when reconstructed from cryo-electron micrographs. However, recent single-particle DNA packaging force measurements have suggested that incompletely packaged DNA (ipDNA) is less ordered when it is shorter than ∼25% of the full genome length. The study presented here initially achieves both the isolation and the ipDNA length-based fractionation of ipDNA-containing T3 phage capsids (ipDNA-capsids) produced by DNA packaging in vivo; some ipDNA has quantized lengths, as judged by high-resolution gel electrophoresis of expelled DNA. This is the first isolation of such particles among the tailed dsDNA bacteriophages. The ipDNA-capsids are a minor component (containing ∼10-4 of packaged DNA in all particles) and are initially detected by non-denaturing gel electrophoresis after partial purification by buoyant density centrifugation. The primary contaminants are aggregates of phage particles and empty capsids. This study then investigates ipDNA conformations by the first cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of ipDNA-capsids produced in vivo. The 3-D structures of DNA-free capsids, ipDNA-capsids with various lengths of ipDNA, and mature bacteriophage are reconstructed, which reveals the typical T=7l icosahedral shell of many tailed dsDNA bacteriophages. Though the icosahedral shell structures of these capsids are indistinguishable at the current resolution for the protein shell (∼15 Å), the conformations of the DNA inside the shell are drastically different. T3 ipDNA-capsids with 10.6 kb or shorter dsDNA (<28% of total genome) have an ipDNA conformation indistinguishable from random. However, T3 ipDNA-capsids with 22 kb DNA (58% of total genome) forms a single DNA ring next to the inner surface of the capsid shell. In contrast, dsDNA fully packaged (38.2 kb) in mature T3 phage particles forms multiple concentric rings like those seen in other tailed dsDNA bacteriophages. The distance between the icosahedral shell and the outermost DNA ring decreases in the mature, fully packaged phage structure. These results suggest that, in the early stage of DNA packaging, the dsDNA genome is randomly distributed inside the capsid, not preferentially packaged against the inner surface of the capsid shell, and that the multiple concentric dsDNA rings seen later are the results of pressure-driven close-packing.
Agarose gel electrophoresis; Buoyant density centrifugation; Cryo-EM; 3-D reconstruction; Mass spectrometry; DNA packaging
Pseudomonas chlororaphis phage 201φ2-1 is a relative of Pseudomonas aeruginosa myovirus φKZ. Phage 201φ2-1 was examined by complete genomic sequencing (316,674 bp), by a comprehensive mass spectrometry survey of its virion proteins and by electron microscopy. Seventy-six proteins, of which at least 69 have homologues in φKZ, were identified by mass spectrometry. Eight proteins, in addition to the major head, tail sheath and tail tube proteins, are abundant in the virion. Electron microscopy of 201φ2-1 revealed a multitude of long, fine fibers apparently decorating the tail sheath protein. Among the less abundant virion proteins are three homologues to RNA polymerase β or β′ subunits. Comparison between the genomes of 201φ2-1 and φKZ revealed substantial conservation of the genome plan, and a large region with an especially high rate of gene replacement. The φKZ-like phages exhibited a two-fold higher rate of divergence than for T4-like phages or host genomes.
To investigate the apparent genomic complexity of long-genome bacteriophages, we have sequenced the 218,948-bp genome (6479 bp terminal repeat), and identified the virion proteins (55), of Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage 0305φ8-36. Phage 0305φ8-36 is an atypical myovirus with three large curly tail fibers. An accurate mode of DNA pyrosequencing was used to sequence the genome and mass spectrometry was used to accomplish the comprehensive virion protein survey. Advanced informatic techniques were used to identify classical morphogenesis genes. The 0305φ8-36 genes were highly diverged; 19% of 247 closely spaced genes have similarity to proteins with known functions. Genes for virion-associated, apparently fibrous proteins in a new class were found, in addition to strong candidates for the curly fiber genes. Phage 0305φ8-36 has twice the virion protein coding sequence of T4. Based on its genomic isolation, 0305φ8-36 is a resource for future studies of vertical gene transmission.
myovirus; Bacillus thuringiensis; pyrosequencing; virion protein; mass spectrometry
Electron micrographs of bacteriophage T7 reveal a tail shorter than needed to reach host cytoplasm during infection-initiating injection of a T7 DNA molecule through the tail and cell envelope. However, recent data indicate that internal T7 proteins are injected before the DNA molecule is injected. Thus, bacteriophage/host adsorption potentially causes internal proteins to become external and lengthen the tail for DNA injection. But, the proposed adsorption-induced tail lengthening has never been visualized.
In the present study, electron microscopy of particles in T7 lysates reveals a needle-like capsid extension that attaches partially emptied bacteriophage T7 capsids to non-capsid vesicles and sometimes enters an attached vesicle. This extension is 40–55 nm long, 1.7–2.4× longer than the T7 tail and likely to be the proposed lengthened tail. The extension is 8–11 nm in diameter, thinner than most of the tail, with an axial hole 3–4 nm in diameter. Though the bound vesicles are not identified by microscopy, these vesicles resemble the major vesicles in T7 lysates, found to be E. coli outer membrane vesicles by non-denaturing agarose gel electrophoresis, followed by mass spectrometry.
The observed lengthened tail is long enough to reach host cytoplasm during DNA injection. Its channel is wide enough to be a conduit for DNA injection and narrow enough to clamp DNA during a previously observed stalling/re-starting of injection. However, its outer diameter is too large to explain formation by passing of an intact assembly through any known capsid hole unless the hole is widened.
Lytic bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 forms visually observed aggregates during plaque formation. Aggregates intrinsically lower propagation potential. In the present study, the following observations indicate that lost propagation potential is regained with time: (1) Aggregates sometimes concentrate at the edge of clear plaques. (2) A semi-clear ring sometimes forms beyond the plaques. (3) Formation of a ring is completely correlated with the presence of aggregates at the same angular displacement along the plaque edge. To explain this aggregate-derived lowering/raising of propagation potential, the following hypothesis is presented: Aggregation/dissociation of bacteriophage of 0305φ8-36 is a selected phenomenon that evolved to maintain high host finding rate in a trade-off with maintaining high rate of bacteriophage progeny production. This hypothesis explains ringed plaque morphology observed for other bacteriophages and predicts that aggregates will undergo time-dependent change in structure as propagation potential increases. In support, fluorescence microscopy reveals time-dependent change in the distance between resolution-limited particles in aggregates.
The recently sequenced 218 kb genome of morphologically atypical Bacillus thuringiensis phage 0305φ8-36 exhibited only limited detectable homology to known bacteriophages. The only known relative of this phage is a string of phage-like genes called BtI1 in the chromosome of B. thuringiensis israelensis. The high degree of divergence and novelty of phage genomes pose challenges in how to describe the phage from its genomic sequences.
Phage 0305φ8-36 and BtI1 are estimated to have diverged 2.0 – 2.5 billion years ago. Positionally biased Blast searches aligned 30 homologous structure or morphogenesis genes between 0305φ8-36 and BtI1 that have maintained the same gene order. Functional clustering of the genes helped identify additional gene functions. A conserved long tape measure gene indicates that a long tail is an evolutionarily stable property of this phage lineage. An unusual form of the tail chaperonin system split to two genes was characterized, as was a hyperplastic homologue of the T4gp27 hub gene. Within this region some segments were best described as encoding a conservative array of structure domains fused with a variable component of exchangeable domains. Other segments were best described as multigene units engaged in modular horizontal exchange. The non-structure genes of 0305φ8-36 appear to include the remnants of two replicative systems leading to the hypothesis that the genome plan was created by fusion of two ancestral viruses. The case for a member of the RNAi RNA-directed RNA polymerase family residing in 0305φ8-36 was strengthened by extending the hidden Markov model of this family. Finally, it was noted that prospective transcriptional promoters were distributed in a gradient of small to large transcripts starting from a fixed end of the genome.
Genomic organization at a level higher than individual gene sequence comparison can be analyzed to aid in understanding large phage genomes. Methods of analysis include 1) applying a time scale, 2) augmenting blast scores with positional information, 3) categorizing genomic rearrangements into one of several processes with characteristic rates and outcomes, and 4) correlating apparent transcript sizes with genomic position, gene content, and promoter motifs.
The genomes of both long-genome (> 200 Kb) bacteriophages and long-genome eukaryotic viruses have cellular gene homologs whose selective advantage is not explained. These homologs add genomic and possibly biochemical complexity. Understanding their significance requires a definition of complexity that is more biochemically oriented than past empirically based definitions.
Initially, I propose two biochemistry-oriented definitions of complexity: either decreased randomness or increased encoded information that does not serve immediate needs. Then, I make the assumption that these two definitions are equivalent. This assumption and recent data lead to the following four-part hypothesis that explains the presence of cellular gene homologs in long bacteriophage genomes and also provides a pathway for complexity increases in prokaryotic cells: (1) Prokaryotes underwent evolutionary increases in biochemical complexity after the eukaryote/prokaryote splits. (2) Some of the complexity increases occurred via multi-step, weak selection that was both protected from strong selection and accelerated by embedding evolving cellular genes in the genomes of bacteriophages and, presumably, also archaeal viruses (first tier selection). (3) The mechanisms for retaining cellular genes in viral genomes evolved under additional, longer-term selection that was stronger (second tier selection). (4) The second tier selection was based on increased access by prokaryotic cells to improved biochemical systems. This access was achieved when DNA transfer moved to prokaryotic cells both the more evolved genes and their more competitive and complex biochemical systems.
Testing the hypothesis
I propose testing this hypothesis by controlled evolution in microbial communities to (1) determine the effects of deleting individual cellular gene homologs on the growth and evolution of long genome bacteriophages and hosts, (2) find the environmental conditions that select for the presence of cellular gene homologs, (3) determine which, if any, bacteriophage genes were selected for maintaining the homologs and (4) determine the dynamics of homolog evolution.
Implications of the hypothesis
This hypothesis is an explanation of evolutionary leaps in general. If accurate, it will assist both understanding and influencing the evolution of microbes and their communities. Analysis of evolutionary complexity increase for at least prokaryotes should include analysis of genomes of long-genome bacteriophages.
The number of successful propagations/isolations of soil-borne bacteriophages is small in comparison to the number of bacteriophages observed by microscopy (great plaque count anomaly). As one resolution of the great plaque count anomaly, we use propagation in ultra-dilute agarose gels to isolate a Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage with a large head (95 nm in diameter), tail (486 × 26 nm), corkscrew-like tail fibers (187 × 10 nm) and genome (221 Kb) that cannot be detected by the usual procedures of microbiology. This new bacteriophage, called 0305φ8-36 (first number is month/year of isolation; remaining two numbers identify the host and bacteriophage), has a high dependence of plaque size on the concentration of a supporting agarose gel. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 does not propagate in the traditional gels used for bacteriophage plaque formation and also does not produce visible lysis of liquid cultures. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 aggregates and, during de novo isolation from the environment, is likely to be invisible to procedures of physical detection that use either filtration or centrifugal pelleting to remove bacteria. Bacteriophage 0305φ8-36 is in a new genomic class, based on genes for both structural components and DNA packaging ATPase. Thus, knowledge of environmental virus diversity is expanded with prospect of greater future expansion.