Bacteriophage Structure

  • Frederick A. Eiserling
Part of the Comprehensive Virology book series (CV)


More is known about the physical and chemical properties of the bacterial viruses than of any other virus group except for several simpler plant viruses. The reasons are based on the availability of homogeneous populations of uniform particles which are relatively easy to prepare in large quantities in moderate-sized fermentors. These particles have been extensively used in studies of nucleic acid packaging, in studies of protein—protein interactions, and more recently in characterization of the intermediates in virus assembly. As a result of continued study, a great deal is known about phage structural organization, which has provided insight into such viral functions as adsorption on cell surface receptors, unfolding and penetration of nucleic acids, and the interaction of viral structural components with the host cell membrane during maturation. Understanding of some of the earliest and most obscure steps in viral morphogenesis has been advanced by the discovery, in bacteriophages, of structural “cores” or “scaffolding” proteins which interact to guide, in as yet unknown ways, the assembly of the major capsid proteins. Ingenious structural studies using immunoelectronmicroscopy, direct examination of mutationally defective particles, and selective chemical extraction of capsids have provided much new information about the localization of virion components.


Major Capsid Protein Tail Fiber Head Structure Tail Structure Head Protein 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick A. Eiserling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology InstituteUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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