Three-dimensional structural analysis of recombinant rotavirus-like particles with intact and amino-terminal-deleted VP2: implications for the architecture of the VP2 capsid layer

J Virol. 1997 Oct;71(10):7353-60. doi: 10.1128/JVI.71.10.7353-7360.1997.


Rotaviruses are the leading cause of severe infantile gastroenteritis worldwide. These viruses are large, complex icosahedral particles consisting of three concentric capsid layers enclosing a genome of eleven segments of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). The amino terminus of the innermost capsid protein VP2 possesses a nonspecific single-stranded RNA and dsRNA binding activity, and the amino terminus is also essential for the incorporation of the polymerase enzyme VP1 and guanylyltransferase VP3 into the core of the virion. Biochemical and structural studies have suggested that VP2, and especially the amino terminus, appears to act as a scaffold for proper assembly of the components of the viral core. To locate the amino terminus of VP2 within the core, we have used electron cryomicroscopy and image reconstruction to determine the three-dimensional structures of recombinant virus-like particles that contain either full-length or amino-terminal-deleted forms of VP2 coexpressed with the intermediate capsid protein VP6. A comparison of these structures indicates two significant changes along the inner surface of VP2 in the structure lacking the amino terminus: a loss of mass adjacent to the fivefold axes and a redistribution of mass along the fivefold axes. Examination of the VP2 layer suggests that the proteins are arranged as dimers of 120 quasi-equivalent molecules, with each dimer extending between neighboring fivefold axes. Our results indicate that the amino termini of both quasi-equivalent VP2 molecules are located near the icosahedral vertices.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsid / biosynthesis
  • Capsid / chemistry
  • Capsid / ultrastructure*
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Cell Line
  • Dimerization
  • Freezing
  • Genome, Viral
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Structural
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / ultrastructure*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Rotavirus / genetics
  • Rotavirus / ultrastructure*
  • Sequence Deletion*
  • Spodoptera


  • Capsid Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • VP2 protein, Rotavirus