The crystal structure of a virus-like particle from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus provides insight into the evolution of viruses

J Mol Biol. 2007 May 18;368(5):1469-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.02.075. Epub 2007 Mar 2.


Pyrococcus furiosus is a hyperthermophilic archaeal microorganism found near deep-sea thermal vents and its optimal growth temperature of 100 degrees C. Recently, a 38.8-kDa protein from P. furiosus DSM 3638 was isolated and characterized. Electron microscopy revealed that this protein aggregated as spheres of approximately 30 nm in diameter, which we designated P. furiosus virus-like particles (PfVs). X-ray crystallographic analysis at 3.6-A resolution revealed that each PfV consisted of 180 copies of the 38.8-kDa protein and retained T=3 icosahedral symmetry, as is often the case in spherical viruses. The total molecular mass of each particle was approximately 7 MDa. An examination of capsid structures suggested strong evolutionary links among PfV, tailed double-stranded DNA bacteriophages, and herpes viruses. The similar three-dimensional structures of the various coat proteins indicate that these viral capsids might have originated and evolved from a common ancestor. The structure of PfV provides a previously undescribed example of viral relationships across the three domains of life (Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacteriophages / chemistry
  • Bacteriophages / ultrastructure
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary*
  • Protein Subunits / chemistry
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Pyrococcus furiosus / chemistry
  • Pyrococcus furiosus / virology*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Viral Proteins* / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins* / classification
  • Viral Proteins* / ultrastructure
  • Viruses* / chemistry
  • Viruses* / classification
  • Viruses* / ultrastructure


  • Protein Subunits
  • Viral Proteins

Associated data

  • PDB/2EOZ