Substrate translocation involves specific lysine residues of the central channel of the conjugative coupling protein TrwB
Linear double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses package their genomes into preformed protein shells via nanomotors using ATP as an energy source. The central hub of the bacteriophage φ29 DNA-packaging motor contains a 3.6-nm channel for dsDNA to enter during packaging and to exit during infection. The negatively charged interior channel wall is decorated with a total of 48 positively charged lysine residues displayed as four 12-lysine rings from the 12 gp10 subunits that enclose the channel. The standard notion derived from many models is that these uniquely arranged, positively charged rings play active roles in DNA translocation through the channel. In this study, we tested this prevailing view by examining the effect of mutating these basic lysines to alanines, and assessing the impact of altering the pH environment. Unexpectedly, mutating these basic lysine residues or changing the pH to 4 or 10, which could alter the charge of lysines, did not measurably impair DNA translocation or affect the one-way traffic property of the channel. The results support our recent findings regarding the dsDNA packaging mechanism known as the "push through a one-way valve".