Conserved features in papillomavirus and polyomavirus capsids

David M. Belnap, Norman H. Olson, Nancy M. Cladel, William W. Newcomb, Jay C. Brown, John W. Kreider, Neil D. Christensen, Timothy S. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Capsids of papilloma and polyoma viruses (papovavirus family) are composed of 72 pentameric capsomeres arranged on a skewed icosahedral lattice (triangulation number of seven, T = 7). Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV) was reported previously to be a T = 7laevo (left-handed) structure, whereas human wart virus, simian virus 40, and murine polyomavirus were shown to be T = 7dextro (right-handed). The CRPV structure determined by cryoelectron microscopy and image reconstruction was similar to previously determined structures of bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) and human papillomavirus type 1 (HPV-1). CRPV capsids were observed in closed (compact) and open (swollen) forms. Both forms have star-shaped capsomeres, as do BPV-1 and HPV-1, but the open CRPV capsids are ~2 nm larger in radius. The lattice hands of all papillomaviruses examined in this study were found to be T = 7dextro. In the region of maximum contact, papillomavirus capsomeres interact in a manner similar to that found in polyomaviruses. Although papilloma and polyoma viruses have differences in capsid size (~60 versus ~50 nm), capsomere morphology (11 to 12 nm star-shaped versus 8 nm barrel-shaped), and intercapsomere interactions (slightly different contacts between capsomeres), papovavirus capsids have a conserved, 72-pentamer, T = 7dextro structure. These features are conserved despite significant differences in amino acid sequences of the major capsid proteins. The conserved features may be a consequence of stable contacts that occur within capsomeres and flexible links that form among capsomeres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-263
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 7 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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