A functional domain of bacteriophage lambda terminase for prohead binding. Academic Article uri icon


  • Terminase is a multifunctional protein complex involved in DNA packaging during bacteriophage lambda assembly. Terminase is made of gpNul and gpA, the products of the phage lambda Nu1 and A genes. Early during DNA packaging terminase binds to lambda DNA to form a complex called complex I. Terminase is required for the binding of proheads by complex I to form a DNA: terminase: prohead complex known as complex II. Terminase remains associated with the DNA during encapsidation. The other known role for terminase in packaging is the production of staggered nicks in the DNA thereby generating the cohesive ends. Lambdoid phage 21 has cohesive ends identical to those of lambda. The head genes of lambda and 21 show partial sequence homology and are analogous in structure, function and position. The terminases of lambda and 21 are not interchangeable. At least two actions of terminase are involved in this specificity: (1) DNA binding; (2) prohead binding. The 1 and 2 genes at the left end of the 21 chromosome were identified as coding for the 21 terminase. gp1 and gp2 are analogous to gpNu1 and gpA, respectively. We have isolated a phage, lambda-21 hybrid 33, which is the product of a crossover between lambda and 21 within the terminase genes. Lambda-21 hybrid 33 DNA and terminase have phage 21 packaging specificity, as determined by complementation and helper packaging studies. The terminase of lambda-21 hybrid 33 requires lambda proheads for packaging. We have determined the position at which the crossover between lambda DNA and 21 DNA occurred to produce the hybrid phage. Lambda-21 hybrid 33 carries the phage 21 1 gene and a hybrid phage 2/A gene. Sequencing of lambda-21 hybrid 33 DNA shows that it encodes a protein that is homologous at the carboxy terminus with the 38 amino acids of the carboxy terminus of lambda gpA; the remainder of the protein is homologous to gp2. The results of these studies define a specificity domain for prohead binding at the carboxy terminus of gpA.

published proceedings

  • J Mol Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Frackman, S., Siegele, D. A., & Feiss, M.

citation count

  • 67

complete list of authors

  • Frackman, S||Siegele, DA||Feiss, M

publication date

  • December 1984