An elastic network model of HK97 capsid maturation

J Struct Biol. 2003 Aug;143(2):107-17. doi: 10.1016/s1047-8477(03)00126-6.


The structure of the capsid of bacteriophage HK97 has been solved at various stages of maturity by crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, and has been reported previously in the literature. Typically the capsid assembles through polymerization and maturation processes. Maturation is composed of proteolytic cleavages to the precursor capsid (called Prohead II), expansion triggered by DNA packaging (in which the largest conformational changes of the capsid appear), and covalent cross-links of neighboring subunits to create the mature capsid called Head II. We apply a coarse-grained elastic network interpolation (ENI) to generate a feasible pathway for conformational change from Prohead II to Head II. The icosahedral symmetry of the capsid structure offers a significant computational advantage because it is not necessary to consider the whole capsid structure but only an asymmetric unit consisting of one hexamer plus an additional subunit from an adjacent pentamer. We also analyze normal modes of the capsid structure using an elastic network model which is also subject to symmetry constraints. Using our model, we can visualize the smooth evolution of capsid expansion and revisit in more detail several interesting geometric changes recognized in early experimental works such as rigid body motion of two compact domains (A and P) with two refolding extensions (N-arm and E-loop) and track the approach of the two particular residues associated with isopeptide bonds that make hexagonal cross-links in Head II. The feasibility of the predicted pathway is also supported by the results of our normal mode analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / chemistry
  • Bacteriophages / growth & development
  • Bacteriophages / ultrastructure*
  • Capsid / chemistry*
  • Capsid / ultrastructure
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Protein Conformation