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Nature. 2016 May 19;533(7603):346-52. doi: 10.1038/nature17971.

Structure of the T4 baseplate and its function in triggering sheath contraction.

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École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), BSP-415, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology, Research Center of Biotechnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, pr. 60-letiya Oktyabrya, 7 build. 2, 117312, Moscow, Russia.
Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Laboratory of Molecular Bioengineering, 16/10 Miklukho-Maklaya St., 117997 Moscow, Russia.
Center for Cellular Imaging and NanoAnalytics (C-CINA), Biozentrum, University of Basel, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland.


Several systems, including contractile tail bacteriophages, the type VI secretion system and R-type pyocins, use a multiprotein tubular apparatus to attach to and penetrate host cell membranes. This macromolecular machine resembles a stretched, coiled spring (or sheath) wound around a rigid tube with a spike-shaped protein at its tip. A baseplate structure, which is arguably the most complex part of this assembly, relays the contraction signal to the sheath. Here we present the atomic structure of the approximately 6-megadalton bacteriophage T4 baseplate in its pre- and post-host attachment states and explain the events that lead to sheath contraction in atomic detail. We establish the identity and function of a minimal set of components that is conserved in all contractile injection systems and show that the triggering mechanism is universally conserved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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