Structure of small virus-like particles assembled from the L1 protein of human papillomavirus 16.
The papillomavirus major late protein, L1, forms the pentameric assembly unit ofthe viral shell. Recombinant HPV16 L1 pentamers assemble in vitro into capsid-like structures, and truncation of ten N-terminal residues leads to a homogeneous preparation of 12-pentamer, icosahedral particles. X-ray crystallographic analysis of these particles at 3.5 A resolution shows that L1 closely resembles VP1 from polyomaviruses. Surface loops contain the sites of sequence variation among HPV types and the locations of dominant neutralizing epitopes. The ease with which small virus-like particles may be obtained from L1expressed in E. coli makes them attractive candidate components of a papillomavirus vaccine. Their crystal structure also provides a starting point for future vaccine design.