Characterization of the DNA-binding properties of the polyomavirus capsid protein VP1.
The major capsid protein of polyomavirus, VP1, has been expression cloned in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant VP1 protein has been purified to near homogeneity (A. D. Leavitt, T. M. Roberts, and R. L. Garcea, J. Biol. Chem. 260:12803-12809, 1985). With this recombinant protein, a nitrocellulose filter transfer assay was developed for detecting DNA binding to VP1 (Southwestern assay). In optimizing conditions for this assay, dithiothreitol was found to inhibit DNA binding significantly. With recombinant VP1 proteins deleted at the carboxy and amino termini, a region of the protein affecting DNA binding was identified within the first 7 amino acids (MAPKRKS) of the VP1 amino terminus. Southwestern analysis of virion proteins separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis demonstrated equivalent DNA binding among the different VP1 isoelectric focusing subspecies, suggesting that VP1 phosphorylation does not modulate this function. By means of partial proteolysis of purified recombinant VP1 capsomeres for assessing structural features of the protein domain affectingDNA binding, a trypsin-sensitive site at lysine 28 was found to eliminate VP1 binding to DNA. The binding constant of recombinant VP1 to polyomavirus DNA was determined by an immunoprecipitation assay (R. D. G. McKay, J. Mol. Biol. 145:471-488, 1981) to be 1 x 10(-11) to 2 x 10(-11) M, which was not significantly different from its affinity for plasmid DNA. McKay analysis of deleted VP1 proteins and VP1-beta-galactosidase fusion proteins indicated that the amino terminus was both necessary and sufficient for DNA binding. As shown by electron microscopy, DNA inhibited in vitro capsomere self-assembly into capsidlike structures (D. M. Salunke, D. L. D. Caspar, and R. L. Garcea, Cell 46:895-904, 1986). Thus, VP1 is a high-affinity, non-sequence-specific DNA-binding protein with the binding function localized near its trypsin-accessible amino terminus. The inhibitory effects of disulfide reagents on DNA binding and of DNA on capsid assembly suggest possible intermediate stepsin virion assembly.