UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

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Article Preprint


Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Biochemistry | Biophysics | Enzymes and Coenzymes | Molecular Biology


Double-stranded DNA viruses package their genomes into pre-assembled protein capsids using virally-encoded ATPase ring motors. While several structures of isolated monomers (subunits) from these motors have been determined, they provide little insight into how subunits within a functional ring coordinate their activities to efficiently generate force and translocate DNA. Here we describe the first atomic-resolution structure of a functional ring form of a viral DNA packaging motor and characterize its atomic-level dynamics via long timescale molecular dynamics simulations. Crystal structures of the pentameric ATPase ring from bacteriophage asccφ28 show that each subunit consists of a canonical N-terminal ASCE ATPase domain connected to a ‘vestigial’ nuclease domain by a small lid subdomain. The lid subdomain closes over the ATPase active site and engages in extensive interactions with a neighboring subunit such that several important catalytic residues are positioned to function in trans. The pore of the ring is lined with several positively charged residues that can interact with DNA. Simulations of the ATPase ring in various nucleotide-bound states provide information about how the motor coordinates sequential nucleotide binding, hydrolysis, and exchange around the ring. Simulations also predict that the ring adopts a helical structure to track DNA, consistent with recent cryo-EM reconstruction of the φ29 packaging ATPase. Based on these results, an atomistic model of viral DNA packaging is proposed wherein DNA translocation is powered by stepwise helical-to-planar ring transitions that are tightly coordinated by ATP binding, hydrolysis, and release.


ASCE, ATPase, bacteriophage, crystal structure, DNA, DNA packaging, molecular dynamics simulations, molecular motor

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The copyright holder for this preprint (which was not peer-reviewed) is the author/funder. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.

DOI of Published Version



bioRxiv 2020.07.27.223032; doi: Link to preprint on bioRxiv service.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.