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J Mol Biol. 2000 Aug 4;301(1):35-45.

The internal head protein Gp16 controls DNA ejection from the bacteriophage T7 virion.

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Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Austin, TX 78712-1095, USA.


A wild-type T7 virion ejects about 850 bp of the 40 kb genome into the bacterial cell by a transcription-independent process. Internalization of the remainder of the genome normally requires transcription. Inhibition of transcription-independent DNA translocation beyond the leading 850 bp is not absolute but the time taken by a population of phage genomes in overcoming the block averages about 20 minutes at 30 degrees C. There are additional blocks to transcription-independent translocation and less than 20 % of infecting DNA molecules completely penetrate the cell cytoplasm after four hours of infection. Mutant virions containing an altered gene 16 protein either prevent the blocks to transcription-independent DNA translocation or effect rapid release from blocking sites and allow the entire phage DNA molecule to enter the cell at a constant rate of about 75 bp per second. This rate is likely the same at which the leading 850 bp is ejected into the cell from a wild-type virion. All mutations fall into two clusters contained within 380 bp of the 4 kb gene 16, suggesting that a 127 residue segment of gp16 controls DNA ejection from the phage particle. We suggest that this segment of gp16 acts as a clamp to prevent transcription-independent DNA translocation.

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