Requirements for the Packaging of Geminivirus Circular Single-Stranded DNA: Effect of DNA Length and Coat Protein Sequence

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Geminivirus particles, consisting of a pair of twinned isometric structures have one of the most distinctive capsids in the virological world. Until recently, there was little information as to how these structures are generated. To address this, we developed a system to produce capsid structures following the delivery of geminivirus coat protein and replicating circular single-stranded DNA (cssDNA) by the infiltration of gene constructs into plant leaves. The transencapsidation of cssDNA of the begomovirus genus by coat protein of different geminivirus genera was shown to occur with full-length but not half-length molecules. Double capsid structures, distinct from geminate capsid structures, were also generated in this expression system. By increasing the length of the encapsidated cssDNA, triple geminate capsid structures, consisting of straight, bent and condensed forms were generated. The straight geminate triple structures generated were similar in morphology to those recorded for a potato-infecting virus from Peru. These finding demonstrate that the length of encapsidated DNA controls both the size and stability of geminivirus particles.