Three-dimensional structure of scaffolding-containing phage p22 procapsids by electron cryo-microscopy

J Mol Biol. 1996 Jul 5;260(1):85-98. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1996.0383.


The procapsids of bacterial viruses are the products of the polymerization of coat and scaffolding subunits, as well as the precursors in DNA packaging. Electron cryo-microscopy has been used to study the three-dimensional structures of bacteriophage P22 procapsids containing wild-type and mutant scaffolding proteins. The scaffolding mutant structure has been resolved to 19 A resolution and agrees with the 22 A resolution wild-type procapsid reconstruction. Both procapsid reconstructions contain an outer icosahedral coat protein shell and an inner scaffolding protein core. The outer core protein forms a T = 7 icosahedral lattice with distinctive channels present at the centers of the pentons and hexons. In addition, the hexons display a prominent skew. Computational isolation of the skewed hexon shows the presence of a local 2-fold axis that reduces the number of unique conformations in the asymmetric unit to four at this resolution. We have classified the four unique subunits into three distinct classes, based upon the shape of the upper domain and the presence of a channel leading to the inner coat protein surface. In addition, at the inner surface of the coat protein, finger-like regions that extend towards the scaffolding protein core are present in two of the subunits. The finger-like regions suggest the presence of an ordered interaction between the inner coat protein and the scaffolding protein. However, an icosahedral scaffolding protein shell is not formed, and the innermost scaffolding protein core does not pack with icosahedral symmetry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage P22 / chemistry*
  • Bacteriophage P22 / genetics
  • Bacteriophage P22 / ultrastructure
  • Capsid / chemistry*
  • Capsid / genetics
  • Capsid / metabolism
  • Freezing
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Temperature
  • Viral Core Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Core Proteins / genetics


  • Viral Core Proteins