Bacteriophage φ6 has a genome of three segments of double-stranded RNA enclosed in a polyhedral procapsid. Plus strand transcripts of the segments are packaged in a serially dependent fashion in which S can package alone, M depends on S, and L depends on S and M. We have isolated a mutant form of the virus in the carrier state that has lost segment S. This finding presented an apparent anomaly with respect to the packaging program. Sequencing of gene 1 of segment L in this virus showed a translational change of arginine to glycine at the 14th position. Procapsids prepared from cDNA containing this mutation show behavior in in vitro packaging that is consistent with the phenotype of the mutant virus. The procapsids are able to package segment S alone, but this RNA is present in reduced amounts when the other segments are present. Segments M and L package without dependence on segment S. The mutant virus appears to produce procapsids that are at the second stage of the packaging program.
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