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Modified coat protein forms the flexible spindle-shaped virion of haloarchaeal virus His1

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For correspondence. E-mail dennis.bamford@helsinki.fi; Tel. (+358) 9 191 59100; Fax (+358) 9 191 59098.

Summary

Extremophiles are found in all three domains of cellular life. However, hyperthermic and hypersaline environments are typically dominated by archaeal cells which also hold the records for the highest growth temperature and are able to grow even at saturated salinity. Hypersaline environments are rich of virus-like particles, and spindle-shaped virions resembling lemons are one of the most abundant virus morphotypes. Spindle-shaped viruses are archaea-specific as all the about 15 such virus isolates infect either hyperthermophilic or halophilic archaea. In the present work, we studied spindle-shaped virus His1 infecting an extremely halophilic euryarchaeon, Haloarcula hispanica. We demonstrate that His1 tolerates a variety of salinities, even lower than that of seawater. The detailed analysis of the structural constituents showed that the His1 virion is composed of only one major and a few minor structural proteins. There is no lipid bilayer in the His1 virion but the major structural protein VP21 is most likely lipid modified. VP21 forms the virion capsid, and the lipid modification probably enables hydrophobic interactions leading to the flexible nature of the virion. Furthermore, we propose that euryarchaeal virus His1 may be related to crenarchaeal fuselloviruses, and that the short-tailed spindle-shaped viruses could form a structure-based viral lineage.

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