Structural changes in a marine podovirus associated with release of its genome into Prochlorococcus

Xiangan Liu, Qinfen Zhang, Kazuyoshi Murata, Matthew L. Baker, Matthew B. Sullivan, Caroline Fu, Matthew T. Dougherty, Michael F. Schmid, Marcia S. Osburne, Sallie W. Chisholm, Wah Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Podovirus P-SSP7 infects Prochlorococcus marinus, the most abundant oceanic photosynthetic microorganism. Single-particle cryo-electron microscopy yields icosahedral and asymmetrical structures of infectious P-SSP7 with 4.6-and 9-resolution, respectively. The asymmetric reconstruction reveals how symmetry mismatches are accommodated among five of the gene products at the portal vertex. Reconstructions of infectious and empty particles show a conformational change of the 'valve' density in the nozzle, an orientation difference in the tail fibers, a disordering of the C terminus of the portal protein and the disappearance of the core proteins. In addition, cryo-electron tomography of P-SSP7 infecting Prochlorococcus showed the same tail-fiber conformation as that in empty particles. Our observations suggest a mechanism whereby, upon binding to the host cell, the tail fibers induce a cascade of structural alterations of the portal vertex complex that triggers DNA release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)830-836
Number of pages7
JournalNature Structural and Molecular Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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