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J Virol. Apr 1980; 34(1): 234–243.
PMCID: PMC288689
Structure and Functions of the Bacteriophage P22 Tail Protein
Peter B. Berget and Anthony R. Poteete
1Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
Present address: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas Medical School, Houston, TX 77025.
Present address: Harvard Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.
The product of gene 9 (gp9) of Salmonella typhimurium bacteriophage P22 is a multifunctional structural protein. This protein is both a specific glycosidase which imparts the adsorption characteristics of the phage for its host and a protein which participates in a specific assembly reaction during phage morphogenesis. We have begun a detailed biochemical and genetic analysis of this gene product. A relatively straightforward purification of this protein has been devised, and various physical parameters of the protein have been determined. The protein has an s20,w of 9.3S, a D20,w of 4.3 × 10−7 cm2/s, and a molecular weight, as determined by sedimentation equilibrium, of 173,000. The purified protein appears as a prolate ellipsoid upon electron microscopic examination, with an axial ratio of 4:1, which is similar to the observed shape when it is attached to the phage particle. The molecular weight is consistent with the tail protein being a dimer of gp9 and each phage containing six of these dimers. An altered form of the tail protein has been purified from supF cells infected with a phage strain carrying an amber mutation in gene 9. Phage “tailed” with this altered form of gp9 adsorb to susceptible cells but form infectious centers with a severely reduced efficiency (ca. 1%). Biochemical analysis of the purified wild-type and genetically altered tail proteins suggests that loss of infectivity correlates with a loss in the glycosidase activity of the protein (2.5% residual activity). From these results we propose that the glycosidic activity of the P22 tail protein is not essential for phage assembly or adsorption of the phage to its host but is required for subsequent steps in the process of infection.
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