Research Articles

Structure of tobacco mosaic virus at 3.6 A resolution: implications for assembly

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Science  21 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4744, pp. 1401-1406
DOI: 10.1126/science.3952490


X-ray fiber diffraction analysis of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) has led to the building of a molecular model of the intact virus, based on a map at 3.6 A resolution derived from five separated Bessel orders. This has been made possible by advances in the solution of the fiber diffraction phase problem. It is now possible to understand much of the chemical basis of TMV assembly, particularly in terms of intersubunit electrostatic interactions and RNA binding. Consideration of the molecular structure in conjunction with physical chemical studies by several groups of investigators suggests that the nucleating aggregate for initiation of TMV assembly is a short (about two turns) helix of protein subunits, probably inhibited from further polymerization in the absence of RNA by the disordering of peptide loop near the inner surface of the virus.

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