The circular single-stranded viral DNA (ssDNA) of filamentous phage is oriented in the virus with a hairpin forming sequence called mos at the leading end of the virion-the end that emerges from the cell first. In the experiments that originally defined mos it was also found to enhance virion production 100-fold, though in other circumstances it has no such effect. Using a new electron-microscopic method, we have ascertained the orientation of ssDNA in phage having mutations involving mos and other viral functions, and also in the intracellular precursor to the virion-a rod-shaped complex between the ssDNA and the phage-encoded gene-V protein, pV. The results show (1) that the ssDNA is oriented in the complex as in the virion, with mos at one end; (2) that orientation is maintained even if assembly is not mediated by the complex; (3) that orientation is manifested in polyphage-abnormal particles in which many unit-length ssDNA molecules are sheathed in a single, extremely long capsid; (4) that orientation is imposed by mos itself (or something very nearby) since it disappears in a mos deletion; and (5) that a 229-base segment including the minus strand of mos is also effective at imposing orientation. On the basis of our findings, we speculate that mos determines orientation in two stages, one imposing an axis on the ssDNA loop during formation of the pV/ssDNA complex, the other imposing a direction on the loop during initiation of particle assembly. The sequence requirements for the two stages maybe different.
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