The molecular structure of the single-stranded fd DNA inside its filamentous virion has been stabilized by the photochemical reaction with a psoralen derivative and examined in the electron microscope. The results support the notion that the 6389 nucleotide-long DNA molecule is folded back on itself inside the 1 μm-long protein coat. At one end of the virion, there exists a DNA hairpin region 200±50 base-pairs long. This "end hairpin" is mapped on the fd genome to the site of the replication origin. The most stable in vitro hairpin of fd DNA has been mapped previously to this same site. This unique duplex region of fd DNA may play an important role in the formation of specific protein-DNA complexes which are crucial to stages of the fd life cycle: the adsorption of the phage to the bacteria, the initiation of replication of the single-stranded DNA, and the assembly of newly synthesized DNA strands into the filamentous virions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas