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Evidence for bacteriophage T7 tail extension during DNA injection

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Background. Electron micrographs of bacteriophage T7 reveal a tail shorter than needed to reach host cytoplasm during infection-initiating injection of a T7 DNA molecule through the tail and cell envelope. However, recent data indicate that internal T7 proteins are injected before the DNA molecule is injected. Thus, bacteriophage/host adsorption potentially causes internal proteins to become external and lengthen the tail for DNA injection. But, the proposed adsorption-induced tail lengthening has never been visualized. Findings. In the present study, electron microscopy of particles in T7 lysates reveals a needle-like capsid extension that attaches partially emptied bacteriophage T7 capsids to non-capsid vesicles and sometimes enters an attached vesicle. This extension is 40-55 nm long, 1.7-2.4× longer than the T7 tail and likely to be the proposed lengthened tail. The extension is 8-11 nm in diameter, thinner than most of the tail, with an axial hole 3-4 nm in diameter. Though the bound vesicles are not identified by microscopy, these vesicles resemble the major vesicles in T7 lysates, found to be E. coli outer membrane vesicles by non-denaturing agarose gel electrophoresis, followed by mass spectrometry. Conclusion. The observed lengthened tail is long enough to reach host cytoplasm during DNA injection. Its channel is wide enough to be a conduit for DNA injection and narrow enough to clamp DNA during a previously observed stalling/re-starting of injection. However, its outer diameter is too large to explain formation by passing of an intact assembly through any known capsid hole unless the hole is widened. © 2008 Serwer et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Serwer, P., Wright, E. T., Hakala, K. W., & Weintraub, S. T. (2008). Evidence for bacteriophage T7 tail extension during DNA injection. BMC Research Notes, 1.

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