We determined the size and shape of full-length avian sarcoma virus (ASV) integrase (IN) monomers and dimers in solution using small angle x-ray scattering. The low resolution data obtained establish constraints for the relative arrangements of the three component domains in both forms. Domain organization within the small angle x-ray envelopes was determined by combining available atomic resolution data for individual domains with results from cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry. The full-length dimer architecture so revealed is unequivocally different from that proposed from x-ray crystallographic analyses of two-domain fragments, in which interactions between the catalytic core domains play a prominent role. Core-core interactions are detected only in cross-linked IN tetramers and are required for concerted integration. The solution dimer is stabilized by C-terminal domain (CTD-CTD) interactions and by interactions of the N-terminal domain in one subunit with the core and CTD in the second subunit. These results suggest a pathway for formation of functional IN-DNA complexes that has not previously been considered and possible strategies for preventing such assembly
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