The øX174 DNA binding protein contains two DNA binding domains, containing a series of DNA binding basic amino acids, separated by a proline-rich linker region. Within each DNA binding domain, there is a conserved glycine residue. Glycine and proline residues were mutated and the effects on virion structure were examined. Substitutions for glycine residues yield particles with similar properties to previously characterized mutants with substitutions for DNA binding residues. Both sets of mutations share a common extragenic second-site suppressor, suggesting that the defects caused by the mutant proteins are mechanistically similar. Hence, glycine residues may optimize DNA-protein contacts. The defects conferred by substitutions for proline residues appear to be fundamentally different. The properties of the mutant particles along with the atomic structure of the virion suggest that the proline residues may act to guide the packaged DNA to the adjacent fivefold related asymmetric unit, thus preventing a chaotic packaging arrangement.
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