Royal Society Publishing

Assembly of a Spherical Plant Virus

K. W. Adolph , P. J. G. Butler


The conditions previously reported as necessary for the reassembly of spherical viruses have been distinctly unphysiological and such reassembly cannot be related directly to the in vivo reaction. Mild conditions for the in vitro reassembly of cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) from its isolated components have now been described (Adolph & Butler 1975) and the reassembled virus characterized. This reassembly involved the co-aggregation of the RNA and protein around neutrality and at ionic strength 0.2, giving yields of 70 % encapsidation at pH 6.0. The reaction was independent of temperature over the range 5-25 <latex>$^\circ$</latex>C and did not require the presence of Mg<latex>$^{2+}$</latex> ions. The reassembled virus shows a stability similar to that of native CCMV, with the same change in sedimentation coefficient around pH 6.5. The molecular mass and buoyant density in CsCl are also the same as those of native CCMV, while the electron microscope reveals a surface morphology on the reassembled particles like that on native CCMV. Analysis of the number-average, mass-average, and Z-average molecular masses of the purified protein at both pH 6.0 and pH 7.5 suggests that the active unit for reassembly is a dimer of the protein subunit.

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