Structures of bovine and human papillomaviruses. Analysis by cryoelectron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction

Biophys J. 1991 Dec;60(6):1445-56. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(91)82181-6.


The structures of bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) and human papillomavirus type 1 (HPV-1) were determined at 2.5 nm resolution by cryoelectron microscopy and three dimensional image reconstruction techniques. As expected, the reconstructions showed that both viruses consist of a T = 7 icosahedral capsid (approximately 60 nm in diameter) which surrounds a nucleohistone core. The capsid morphologies of the two viruses are nearly indistinguishable. Each capsid consists of a shell layer (approximately 2 nm thick) of nearly continuous density from which capsomers project radially to a maximum height of approximately 5.8 nm. The five-coordinate (pentavalent) and six-coordinate (hexavalent) capsomers both exhibit distinct five-fold axial symmetry as was observed for SV40 and polyoma viruses. Thus, both genera (papilloma and polyoma) of the papovavirus family have now been shown to have the characteristic "all-pentamer" capsid construction. BPV-1 and HPV-1 capsomers consist of a thick (8.6 nm diameter) trunk that broadens distally to form a regular five-pointed, star-shaped head, and proximally to create the shell layer where capsomers associate. A cylindrical channel (approximately 2.8 nm diameter) extends along the axis of each capsomer from the interior of the virus to a point approximately half way to the capsomer surface. Computationally sectioned views of individual capsomers displayed at decreasing radii show that each of the five capsomer subunits (in both pentavalent and hexavalent capsomers) makes a pronounced (30 degrees) left-handed twist just above the outer surface of the capsid shell. Similar views of the reconstructions also clarify the morphology of intercapsomer contacts. For example, they show how hexavalent capsomers coordinate six neighboring capsomers despite the fact that they contain only five subunits. The system of intercapsomer contacts is indistinguishable in BPV-1 and HPV-1, but quite different from that reported for polyoma virus capsids assembled in vitro from the major capsid protein, VP1 (D. M. Salunke, D. L. D. Caspar, and R. L. Garcea. 1989. Biophys. J. 56:887-900). Thus, because both polyoma and papilloma viruses have all-pentamer capsids, it appears that intracapsomer subunit-subunit interactions which stabilize pentameric capsomers are better preserved evolutionarily than those involved in capsomer-capsomer contacts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bovine papillomavirus 1 / isolation & purification
  • Bovine papillomavirus 1 / ultrastructure*
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • Freezing
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Models, Structural*
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Papillomaviridae / ultrastructure*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / microbiology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / veterinary
  • Warts / microbiology