Curr Opin Virol 2019 Apr 16;36:32-37. Epub 2019 Apr 16.
Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, 18-242 Moos Tower, 515 Delaware St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, United States. Electronic address:
During the assembly of dsDNA viruses such as the tailed bacteriophages and herpesviruses, the viral chromosome is compacted to near crystalline density inside a preformed head shell. DNA translocation is driven by powerful ring ATPase motors that couple ATP binding, hydrolysis, and release to force generation and movement. Studies of the motor of the bacteriophage phi29 have revealed a complex mechanochemistry behind this process that slows as the head fills. Recent studies of the physical behavior of packaging DNA suggest that surprisingly long-time scales of relaxation of DNA inside the head and jamming phenomena during packaging create the physical need for regulation of the rate of packaging. Studies of DNA packaging in viral systems have, therefore, revealed fundamental insight into the complex behavior of DNA and the need for biological systems to accommodate these physical constraints.