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PRD1 is a ds-DNA bacteriophage from the Tectiviridae family with an unusual structural feature: the viral genome is enclosed by a protein-rich membrane, which is in turn enclosed by an external icosahedral protein shell (capsid). Three-dimensional reconstructions from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) images have revealed the structure of the PRD1 capsid at moderate resolution (28 Å), while X-ray crystallographic studies have recently provided a high resolution (1.85 Å) picture of the major coat protein, P3. We have now combined these results from different imaging methods to obtain a more detailed understanding of the virion organization. The combination has been made in a cyclic process: a preliminary fitting of the atomic structure of P3 to each one of its independent positions in the cryo-EM maps of the capsids provided initial models that could be used to improve the reconstructions; the refined maps then served as a base frame for an optimized fit. This process allows us to study the viral particle structure at “quasi-atomic” resolution.
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