The tail structure of bacteriophage T4 and its mechanism of contraction

Victor A. Kostyuchenko, Paul R. Chipman, Petr G. Leiman, Fumio Arisaka, Vadim V. Mesyanzhinov, Michael G. Rossmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Bacteriophage T4 and related viruses have a contractile tail that serves as an efficient mechanical device for infecting bacteria. A three-dimensional cryo-EM reconstruction of the mature T4 tail assembly at 15-Å resolution shows the hexagonal dome-shaped baseplate, the extended contractile sheath, the long tail fibers attached to the baseplate and the collar formed by six whiskers that interact with the long tail fibers. Comparison with the structure of the contracted tail shows that tail contraction is associated with a substantial rearrangement of the domains within the sheath protein and results in shortening of the sheath to about one-third of its original length. During contraction, the tail tube extends beneath the baseplate by about one-half of its total length and rotates by 345°, allowing it to cross the host's periplasmic space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-813
Number of pages4
JournalNature Structural and Molecular Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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