Electron microscopy of in-plaque phage T3 assembly: Proposed analogs of neurodegenerative disease triggers

Philip Serwer, Barbara Hunter, Elena T. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Increased knowledge of virus assembly-generated particles is needed for understanding both virus assembly and host responses to virus infection. Here, we use a phage T3 model and perform electron microscopy (EM) of thin sections (EM-TS) of gel-supported T3 plaques formed at 30 C. After uranyl acetate/lead staining, we observe intracellular black particles, some with a difficult-to-see capsid. Some black particles (called LBPs) are larger than phage particles. The LBP frequency is increased by including proflavine, a DNA packaging inhibitor, in the growth medium and increasing plaque-forming temperature to 37 C. Acidic phosphotungstate-precipitate (A-PTA) staining causes LBP substitution by black rings (BRs) that have the size and shape expected of hyper-expanded capsid containers for LBP DNA. BRs are less frequent in liquid cultures, suggesting that hyper-expanded capsids evolved primarily for in-gel (e.g., in-biofilm) propagation. BR-specific A-PTA staining and other observations are explained by α-sheet intense structure of the major subunit of hyper-expanded capsids. We hypothesize that herpes virus triggering of neurodegenerative disease occurs via in-gel propagation-promoted (1) generation of α-sheet intense viral capsids and, in response, (2) host production of α-sheet intense, capsid-interactive, innate immunity amyloid protein that becomes toxic. We propose developing viruses that are therapeutic via detoxifying interaction with this innate immunity protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Assembly-generated particles
  • Obscure
  • Phage capsids
  • Protein staining
  • Protein structure
  • Thin sections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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