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Assembly Of Vault-like Particles In Insect Cells Expressing Only The Major Vault Protein*

A. G. Stephen, S. Raval-Fernandes, T. Huynh, M. Torres, V. Kickhoefer, L. Rome
Published 2001 · Biology, Medicine

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Vaults are the largest (13 megadalton) cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein particles known to exist in eukaryotic cells. They have a unique barrel-shaped structure with 8-fold symmetry. Although the precise function of vaults is unknown, their wide distribution and highly conserved morphology in eukaryotes suggests that their function is essential and that their structure must be important for their function. The 100-kDa major vault protein (MVP) constitutes ∼75% of the particle mass and is predicted to form the central barrel portion of the vault. To gain insight into the mechanisms for vault assembly, we have expressed rat MVP in the Sf9 insect cell line using a baculovirus vector. Our results show that the expression of the rat MVP alone can direct the formation of particles that have biochemical characteristics similar to endogenous rat vaults and display the distinct vault-like morphology when negatively stained and examined by electron microscopy. These particles are the first example of a single protein polymerizing into a non-spherically, non-cylindrically symmetrical structure. Understanding vault assembly will enable us to design agents that disrupt vault formation and hence aid in elucidating vault functionin vivo.
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