Bacteriophage P22 is thought to package its double-stranded DNA chromosome from concatemeric replicating DNA in a "processive" sequential fashion. According to this model, during the initial packaging event in such a series the packaging apparatus recognizes a nucleotide sequence, called pac, on the DNA, and then condenses DNA within the coat protein shell unidirectionally from that point. DNA ends are generated near the pac site before or during the condensation reaction. The opposite end of the mature chromosome is created by a cut made in the DNA after a complete chromosome is condensed within the phage head. Subsequent packaging events on that concatemeric DNA begin at the end generated by the headful cut of the previous event and proceed in the same direction as the previous event. We report here the identification of a consensus nucleotide sequence for the pac site, and present evidence that supports the idea that the gene 3 protein is a central participant in this recognition event. In addition, we tentatively locate the portion of the gene 3 protein that contacts the pac site during the initiation of packaging. © 1987.
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