The interaction between the coat protein of the group I bacteriophage fr with its translational operator site is compared with the previously studied R17 interaction. The sequence of the two RNA binding sites differ by 2 of 20 nucleotides and two coat proteins by 17 of 129 amino acids. An analysis of the binding of fr coat protein to 24 operator variants revealed that the two proteins recognize operator sequences in virtually the same way. However, fr coat protein binds to nearly every RNA 6 to 14-fold tighter than R17 coat protein. Since the fr operator is a weaker binding variant and the fr coat protein shows a different temperature dependence of binding, it is unlikely that the two systems have different Kas in vivo. RNA fragments containing the operator sequences can initiate the capsid assembly with both fr and R17 coat protein. Surprisingly, the two coat proteins can form a mixed capsid in vitro.
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