Bacteriophage lambda chromosomes are processively packaged into preformed shells, using end-to-end multimers of intracellular viral DNA as the packaging substate. A 200 bp long DNA segment, cos, contains all the sequences needed for DNA packaging. The work reported here shows that efficient DNA packaging termination requires cos's I2 segment, in addition to the required termination subsite, cosQ, and the nicking site, cosN. Efficient processivity requires cosB, in addition to cosQ and cosN. An initiation-defective mutant form of cosB sponsored efficient processivity, indicating that the terminase-cosB interactions required for termination are less stringent than those required at initiation. The finding that an initiation-defective form of cosB is functional for processivity allows a re-interpretation of a similar finding, obtained previously, that the initiation-defective cosB of phage 21 is functional for processivity by the lambda packaging machinery. The cosBphi21 result can now be interpreted as indicating that interactions between cosBphi21 and lambda terminase, while insufficient for initiation, function for processivity.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.