Unique Tail Appendages of Marine Bacteriophages


The objective was to visualize a variety of marine bacteriophage and identify unique structural features that set them apart from terrestrial phages. Phages were plaque isolated and characterized using atomic force microscopy. Bacteriophage infecting cyanobacteria synechococcus that exhibits a novel structural feature not previously reported for any other phages were observed. These cyanophages have up to four, 450 nm long, multi-stranded, complex helical fibers that emanate from either the base plate and/or the collar of the phage particle, origins of shorter fibers on well-studied phages such as T4. The flexible fibers terminate at their distal ends in multiple bulbs of diameter 30 nm composed of 20 to 30 closely associated proteins. Bulbs form one of two distinctive patterns, or tassels. Most commonly, the arrangement is a 3 + 1 pattern of three consecutive bulbs at the very end with a forth lying upstream, separated from the terminal three by a gap of 135 nm. In other populations the fibers terminate in 5 consecutive bulbs. It is proposed that the novel appendages may be involved in host cell searching and recognition in a marine environment.

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Y. Kuznetsov, S. Chang, A. Credaroli and A. McPherson, "Unique Tail Appendages of Marine Bacteriophages," Advances in Microbiology, Vol. 3 No. 6A, 2013, pp. 55-59. doi: 10.4236/aim.2013.36A007.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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