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Protein chainmail variants in dsDNA viruses

Z. Hong Zhou Joshua Chiou

*Corresponding author: Z. Hong Zhou hong.zhou@ucla.edu


First discovered in bacteriophage HK97, biological chainmail is a highly stable system formed by concatenated protein rings. Each subunit of the ring contains the HK97-like fold, which is characterized by its submarine-like shape with a 5-stranded β sheet in the axial (A) domain, spine helix in the peripheral (P) domain, and an extended (E) loop. HK97 capsid consists of covalently-linked copies of just one HK97-like fold protein and represents the most effective strategy to form highly stable chainmail needed for dsDNA genome encapsidation. Recently, near-atomic resolution structures enabled by cryo electron microscopy (cryoEM) have revealed a range of other, more complex variants of this strategy for constructing dsDNA viruses. The first strategy, exemplified by P22-like phages, is the attachment of an insertional (I) domain to the core 5-stranded β sheet of the HK97-like fold. The atomic models of the Bordetella phage BPP-1 showcases an alternative topology of the classic HK97 topology of the HK97-like fold, as well as the second strategy for constructing stable capsids, where an auxiliary jellyroll protein dimer serves to cement the non-covalent chainmail formed by capsid protein subunits. The third strategy, found in lambda-like phages, uses auxiliary protein trimers to stabilize the underlying non-covalent chainmail near the 3-fold axis. Herpesviruses represent highly complex viruses that use a combination of these strategies, resulting in four-level hierarchical organization including a non-covalent chainmail formed by the HK97-like fold domain found in the floor region. A thorough understanding of these structures should help unlock the enigma of the emergence and evolution of dsDNA viruses and inform bioengineering efforts based on these viruses.

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