Send to

Choose Destination
J Biol Chem. 2011 Sep 2;286(35):30867-77. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.260877. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Atomic structure of bacteriophage Sf6 tail needle knob.

Author information

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Podoviridae are double-stranded DNA bacteriophages that use short, non-contractile tails to adsorb to the host cell surface. Within the tail apparatus of P22-like phages, a dedicated fiber known as the "tail needle" likely functions as a cell envelope-penetrating device to promote ejection of viral DNA inside the host. In Sf6, a P22-like phage that infects Shigella flexneri, the tail needle presents a C-terminal globular knob. This knob, absent in phage P22 but shared in other members of the P22-like genus, represents the outermost exposed tip of the virion that contacts the host cell surface. Here, we report a crystal structure of the Sf6 tail needle knob determined at 1.0 Å resolution. The structure reveals a trimeric globular domain of the TNF fold structurally superimposable with that of the tail-less phage PRD1 spike protein P5 and the adenovirus knob, domains that in both viruses function in receptor binding. However, P22-like phages are not known to utilize a protein receptor and are thought to directly penetrate the host surface. At 1.0 Å resolution, we identified three equivalents of l-glutamic acid (l-Glu) bound to each subunit interface. Although intimately bound to the protein, l-Glu does not increase the structural stability of the trimer nor it affects its ability to self-trimerize in vitro. In analogy to P22 gp26, we suggest the tail needle of phage Sf6 is ejected through the bacterial cell envelope during infection and its C-terminal knob is threaded through peptidoglycan pores formed by glycan strands.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center