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Selective transport of fluorescent proteins into the phage nucleus


Upon infection of Pseudomonas cells, jumbo phages 201Φ2-1, ΦPA3, and ΦKZ assemble a phage nucleus. Viral DNA is enclosed within the phage-encoded proteinaceous shell along with proteins associated with DNA replication, recombination and transcription. Ribosomes and proteins involved in metabolic processes are excluded from the nucleus. RNA synthesis occurs inside the phage nucleus and messenger RNA is presumably transported into the cytoplasm to be translated. Newly synthesized proteins either remain in the cytoplasm or specifically translocate into the nucleus. The molecular mechanisms governing selective protein sorting and nuclear import in these phage infection systems are currently unclear. To gain insight into this process, we studied the localization of five reporter fluorescent proteins (GFP+, sfGFP, GFPmut1, mCherry, CFP). During infection with ΦPA3 or 201Φ2-1, all five fluorescent proteins were excluded from the nucleus as expected; however, we have discovered an anomaly with the ΦKZ nuclear transport system. The fluorescent protein GFPmut1, expressed by itself, was transported into the ΦKZ phage nucleus. We identified the amino acid residues on the surface of GFPmut1 required for nuclear targeting. Fusing GFPmut1 to any protein, including proteins that normally reside in the cytoplasm, resulted in transport of the fusion into the nucleus. Although the mechanism of transport is still unknown, we demonstrate that GFPmut1 is a useful tool that can be used for fluorescent labelling and targeting of proteins into the ΦKZ phage nucleus.

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