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J Mol Biol. 1996 Aug 2;260(5):767-80.

Stoichiometry and domainal organization of the long tail-fiber of bacteriophage T4: a hinged viral adhesin.

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Laboratory of Structural Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The long-tail fibers (LTFs) form part of bacteriophage T4's apparatus for host cell recognition and infection, being responsible for its initial attachment to susceptible bacteria. The LTF has two parts, each approximately 70 to 75 nm long; gp34 (140 kDa) forms the proximal half-fiber, while the distal half-fiber is composed of gp37 (109 kDa), gp36(23 kDa) and gp35 (30 kDa). LTFs have long been thought to be dimers of gp34, gp37 and gp36, with one copy of gp35. We have used mass mapping by scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), quantitative SDS-PAGE, and computational sequence analysis to study the structures of purified LTFs and half-fibers of both kinds. These data establish that the LTF is, in fact, trimeric, with a stoichiometry of gp34: gp37: gp36: gp35 = 3:3:3:1. Averaged images of stained and unstained molecules resolve the LTF into a linear stack of 17 domains. At the proximal end is a globular domain of approximately 145 kDa that becomes incorporated into the baseplate. It is followed by a rod-like shaft (33 x 4 mm; 151 kDa) which correlates with a cluster of seven quasi repeats, each 34 to 39 residues long. The proximal half-fiber terminates in three globular domains. The distal half-fiber consists of ten globular domains of variable size and spacing, preceding a needle-like end domain (15 x 2.5 nm; 31 kDa). The LTF is rigid apart from hinges between the two most proximal domains, and between the proximal and distal half-fibers. The latter hinge occurs at a site of local non-equivalence (the "kneecap") at which density, correlated with the presence of gp35, bulges asymmetrically out on one side. Several observations indicate that gp34 participates in the sharing of conserved structural modules among coliphage tail-fiber genes to which gp37 was previously noted to subscribe. Two adjacent globular domains in the proximal half-fiber match a pair of domains in the distal half-fiber, and the rod domain in the proximal half-fiber resembles a similar domain in the T4 short tail-fiber (gp12). Finally, possible structures are considered; combining our data with earlier observations, the most likely conformation for most of the LTF is a three-stranded beta-helix.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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