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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013 Mar;11(3):194-204. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2988. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Popping the cork: mechanisms of phage genome ejection.

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Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Sixty years after Hershey and Chase showed that nucleic acid is the major component of phage particles that is ejected into cells, we still do not fully understand how the process occurs. Advances in electron microscopy have revealed the structure of the condensed DNA confined in a phage capsid, and the mechanisms and energetics of packaging a phage genome are beginning to be better understood. Condensing DNA subjects it to high osmotic pressure, which has been suggested to provide the driving force for its ejection during infection. However, forces internal to a phage capsid cannot, alone, cause complete genome ejection into cells. Here, we describe the structure of the DNA inside mature phages and summarize the current models of genome ejection, both in vitro and in vivo.

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