The bacteriophage T4 DNA injection machine

Michael G. Rossmann, Vadim V. Mesyanzhinov, Fumio Arisaka, Petr G. Leiman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


The tail of bacteriophage T4 consists of a contractile sheath surrounding a rigid tube and terminating in a multiprotein baseplate, to which the long and short tail fibers of the phage are attached. Upon binding of the fibers to their cell receptors, the baseplate undergoes a large conformational switch, which initiates sheath contraction and culminates in transfer of the phage DNA from the capsid into the host cell through the tail tube. The baseplate has a dome-shaped sixfold-symmetric structure, which is stabilized by a garland of six short tail fibers, running around the periphery of the dome. In the center of the dome, there is a membrane-puncturing device, containing three lysozyme domains, which disrupts the intermembrane peptidoglycan layer during infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Structural Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacteriophage
  • Cryo-EM
  • EM
  • Electron cryomicroscopy
  • Electron microscopy
  • Gene product
  • OB fold
  • Oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding fold
  • Phage
  • Phage T4 lysozyme
  • T4L
  • gp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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