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New understanding of complex virus nano-machine for cell puncturing and DNA delivery

long, and six that are short. The long fibers first find the E. coli and make a loose attachment; then the short fibers fasten to get a tighter grip.

The baseplate is the "nerve center" of the virus. When the long and short fibers attach to E. coli, the baseplate transmits this message to the tail, which contracts like a muscle. The baseplate both controls the needlepoint of the tail and the cutting enzyme that make a tiny, nanometer-sized hole through the cell wall of the E. coli. The viral DNA is then squeezed through the tail into the host. The E. coli, thus infected, starts to make only new phage particles and ultimately dies. "Our research described for the first time the structure of phage baseplate proteins and their role in cutting through the host cell wall," said Rossmann.


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Contact: Andrea M. Dietrich
adietric@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
30-Jan-2002


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