A key step in replication of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in the host cell is the generation and packaging of unit-length genomes into preformed capsids. The enzymes involved in this process are the terminases. The HCMV terminase complex consists of two terminase subunits, the ATPase pUL56 and the nuclease pUL89. A potential third component pUL51 has been proposed. Even though the terminase subunit pUL89 has been shown to be essential for DNA packaging and interaction with pUL56, it is not known how pUL89 mechanistically achieves sequence-specific DNA binding and nicking. To identify essential domains and invariant amino acids vis-a-vis nuclease activity and DNA binding, alanine substitutions of predicted motifs were analyzed. The analyses indicated that aspartate 463 is an invariant amino acid for the nuclease activity, while argine 544 is an invariant aa for DNA binding. Structural analysis of recombinant protein using electron microscopy in conjunction with single particle analysis revealed a curvilinear monomer with two distinct domains connected by a thinner hinge-like region that agrees well with the predicted structure. These results allow us to model how the terminase subunit pUL89's structure may mediate its function.
Theiß, J., Sung, M. W., Holzenburg, A., & Bogner, E. (2019). Full-length human cytomegalovirus terminase pUL89 adopts a two-domain structure specific for DNA packaging. PLoS pathogens, 15(12), e1008175. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008175
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