Intranuclear crystalline inclusions have been observed in the nucleus of epithelial cells infected with Adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) at late steps of the virus life cycle. Using immuno-electron microscopy and confocal microscopy of cells infected with various Ad5 recombinants modified in their penton base or fiber domains, we found that these inclusions represented crystals of penton capsomers, the heteromeric capsid protein formed of penton base and fiber subunits. The occurrence of protein crystals within the nucleus of infected cells required the integrity of the fiber knob and part of the shaft domain. In the knob domain, the region overlapping residues 489–492 in the FG loop was found to be essential for crystal formation. In the shaft, a large deletion of repeats 4 to 16 had no detrimental effect on crystal inclusions, whereas deletion of repeats 8 to 21 abolished crystal formation without altering the level of fiber protein expression. This suggested a crucial role of the five penultimate repeats in the crystallisation process. Chimeric pentons made of Ad5 penton base and fiber domains from different serotypes were analyzed with respect to crystal formation. No crystal was found when fiber consisted of shaft (S) from Ad5 and knob (K) from Ad3 (heterotypic S5-K3 fiber), but occurred with homotypic S3K3 fiber. However, less regular crystals were observed with homotypic S35-K35 fiber. TB5, a monoclonal antibody directed against the Ad5 fiber knob was found by immunofluorescence microscopy to react with high efficiency with the intranuclear protein crystals in situ. Data obtained with Ad fiber mutants indicated that the absence of crystalline inclusions correlated with a lower infectivity and/or lower yields of virus progeny, suggesting that the protein crystals might be involved in virion assembly. Thus, we propose that TB5 staining of Ad-infected 293 cells can be used as a prognostic assay for the viability and productivity of fiber-modified Ad5 vectors.\ud \u
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