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Ascovirus P64 Homologs: A Novel Family of Large Cationic Proteins That Condense Viral Genomic DNA for Encapsidation.


Eukaryotic dsDNA viruses use small basic protamine-like proteins or histones, typically <15 kDa, to condense and encapsidate their genomic (g)DNAs during virogenesis. Ascoviruses are large dsDNA (~100⁻200 kbp) viruses that are pathogenic to lepidopteran larvae. Little is known about the molecular basis for condensation and encapsidation of their gDNAs. Previous proteomic analysis showed that Spodoptera frugiperda ascovirus (SfAV-1a) virions contain a large unique DNA-binding protein (P64; 64 kDa, pI = 12.2) with a novel architecture proposed to condense its gDNA. Here we used physical, biochemical, and transmission electron microscopy techniques to demonstrate that P64's basic C-terminal domain condenses SfAV-1a gDNA. Moreover, we demonstrate that only P64 homologs in other ascovirus virions are unique in stably binding DNA. As similar protein families or subfamilies were not identified in extensive database searches, our collective data suggest that ascovirus P64 homologs comprise a novel family of atypical large viral gDNA condensing proteins.

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