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.
Keywords: ATPase; DNA packaging; bacteriophage genetics; bacteriophage structure; biological motor; cryo-electron microscopy; single-molecule analysis.