DNA purified from bacteriophage λ added to a cell-free extract derived from induced λ lysogens can be packaged into infectious phage particles (Kaiser & Masuda, 1973). In this paper the structure of the DNA which is the substrate for in vitro packaging and head assembly is described. The active precursor is a multichromosomal polymer that contains covalently closed cohesive end sites. Neither circular or linear DNA monomers nor polymers with unsealed cohesive ends are packaged efficiently into heads. The unit length monomer is packaged when it is either contained in the interior of a polymer (both of its ends are in cos sites) or when it has a free left end and a cos site on its right. The monomer unit with a free right end is not a substrate for packaging. A procedure is given for the purification of λ DNA fragments that contain either the left or the right cohesive end. The fragments are produced by digesting λ DNA with the site-specific Escherichia coli R1 endonuclease; the left and right ends are separated by sedimentation through a sucrose gradient. These fragments are used to construct small polymers that have a unit length λ monomer with (1) a free left end and a closed right end, (2) a free right end and a closed left end, or (3) both ends closed in cos sites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas