Roles of operator and non-operator RNA sequences in bacteriophage R17 capsid assembly

Dorothy Beckett*, Huey Nan Wu, Olke C. Uhlenbeck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


In order to understand the role of sequences other than the translational operator on bacteriophage R17 assembly, in vitro capsid assembly was studied with R17 coat protein and a variety of RNAs. For a series of RNA oligomers of the same chain length, sequences that bind coat protein dimer with a lower affinity require higher concentrations of RNA and protein for assembly. Among a series of non-specific RNA molecules of differing lengths, lower protein and RNA concentrations are required for assembly of capsids containing longer RNAs. For RNA molecules of any length, the presence of a single high-affinity translational operator sequence lowered the concentration requirements for capsid assembly. However, the advantage for encapsidation provided by the operator sequence is small for large RNA molecules. The experiments indicate that in the overall assembly process the interaction of coat protein with non-specific sequences is at least as important as its interaction with the specific translational operator sequence. In light of the data, a mechanism of achieving selective packaging of the R17 genomic RNA in vivo is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-947
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 20 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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