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Nat Commun




Thermus thermophilus bacteriophage P23-45 encodes a giant 5,002-residue tail tape measure protein (TMP) that defines the length of its extraordinarily long tail. Here, we show that the N-terminal portion of P23-45 TMP is an unusual RNA polymerase (RNAP) homologous to cellular RNAPs. The TMP-fused virion RNAP transcribes pre-early phage genes, including a gene that encodes another, non-virion RNAP, that transcribes early and some middle phage genes. We report the crystal structures of both P23-45 RNAPs. The non-virion RNAP has a crab-claw-like architecture. By contrast, the virion RNAP adopts a unique flat structure without a clamp. Structure and sequence comparisons of the P23-45 RNAPs with other RNAPs suggest that, despite the extensive functional differences, the two P23-45 RNAPs originate from an ancient gene duplication in an ancestral phage. Our findings demonstrate striking adaptability of RNAPs that can be attained within a single virus species.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Published Citation

Chaban, A., Minakhin, L., Goldobina, E. et al. Tail-tape-fused virion and non-virion RNA polymerases of a thermophilic virus with an extremely long tail. Nat Commun 15, 317 (2024).