The ø29 DNA Packaging Motor

Seeking the Mechanism
  • Dwight Anderson
  • Shelley Grimes
Part of the Molecular Biology Intelligence Unit book series (MBIU)


The Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage ø29 research team in Minneapolis has marveled at (and reveled in) the intricacies of ø29 assembly for more than 30 years. Here we highlight the current state of knowledge of ø29 DNA packaging. We describe the in vitro packaging system and focus on recent advances that address the mechanism of the packaging motor. Among advances, the head-tail connector has been visualized in proheads and the packaging motor resolved in partially packaged particles by electron microscopy, the structure of the connector has been solved by X-ray crystallography, and the force-velocity relationship of the motor has been established in single molecule studies. A challenge in the future is to determine the structure and interaction of motor components as well as the conformational changes in these components during energy transduction that define the mechanism of DNA translocation.

The compaction of ø29 DNA by more than 100-fold in length during packaging into the prohead is remarkable in that it overcomes the entropic, electrostatic and bending energies of DNA. The ø29 packaging motor is a multisubunit protein-RNA complex at the prohead portal vertex. The motor, driven by ATP hydrolysis, is force-generating and highly processive, and it opposes a strong internal force that builds up within the capsid as DNA is compressed. The motor can work against loads of 57 picoNewtons on average, making it one of the strongest molecular motors yet reported. We aim to identify and characterize the intermediates during the assembly and function of the motor and to determine the structure of each component of the motor at atomic resolution.

A brief overview of the ø29 DNA packaging system follows, and accordingly citation of published work is highly selective. For more detail, refer to a recent comprehensive review of ø29 DNA packaging.1 Also, a comparison of all the bacteriophage DNA packaging systems under study has been addressed (Jardine and Anderson, in press).


Connector Channel Single Molecule Study Ratchet Mechanism Head Fiber Packaging Motor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© and Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dwight Anderson
    • 1
  • Shelley Grimes
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Oral Science and Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oral ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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