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Protein Primary Structure of the Vaccinia Virion at Increased Resolution


Here we examine the protein covalent structure of the vaccinia virus virion. Within two virion preparations, >88% of the theoretical vaccinia virus-encoded proteome was detected with high confidence, including the first detection of products from 27 open reading frames (ORFs) previously designated "predicted," "uncharacterized," "inferred," or "hypothetical" polypeptides containing as few as 39 amino acids (aa) and six proteins whose detection required nontryptic proteolysis. We also detected the expression of four short ORFs, each of which was located within an ORF ("ORF-within-ORF"), including one not previously recognized or known to be expressed. Using quantitative mass spectrometry (MS), between 58 and 74 proteins were determined to be packaged. A total of 63 host proteins were also identified as candidates for packaging. Evidence is provided that some portion of virion proteins are "nicked" via a combination of endoproteolysis and concerted exoproteolysis in a manner, and at sites, independent of virus origin or laboratory procedures. The size of the characterized virion phosphoproteome was doubled from 189 (J. Matson, W. Chou, T. Ngo, and P. D. Gershon, Virology 452-453:310-323, 2014, doi: to 396 confident, unique phosphorylation sites, 268 of which were within the packaged proteome. This included the unambiguous identification of phosphorylation "hot spots" within virion proteins. Using isotopically enriched ATP, 23 sites of intravirion kinase phosphorylation were detected within nine virion proteins, all at sites already partially occupied within the virion preparations. The clear phosphorylation of proteins RAP94 and RP19 was consistent with the roles of these proteins in intravirion early gene transcription. In a blind search for protein modifications, cysteine glutathionylation and O-linked glycosylation featured prominently. We provide evidence for the phosphoglycosylation of vaccinia virus proteins.


Poxviruses are among the most complex and irregular virions, about whose internal structure little is known. To better understand poxvirus virion structure, imaging should be supplemented with other tools. Here, we provide a deep study of the covalent structure of the vaccinia virus virion using the various tools of contemporary mass spectrometry.

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