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Bacteriophage T4 whiskers: A rudimentary environment-sensing device

Conley, M. Patricia and Wood, William B. (1975) Bacteriophage T4 whiskers: A rudimentary environment-sensing device. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 72 (9). pp. 3701-3705. ISSN 0027-8424.

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The 400 angstrom filaments or "whiskers," which extend outward from the collar region of the phage, control retraction and extension of the tail fibers in response to certain environmental conditions. The tail fibers of normal phage retract in the absence of a required adsorption cofactor, at low pH, at low ionic strength, at low temperature, and at high concentrations of polyethylene glycol. The tail fibers of mutant whiskerless (wac) phage still retract under the first two conditions, but not the last three. Antibodies to whiskers neutralize T4, probably by fixing tail fibers in the retracted configuration. Phage with retracted tail fibers adsorb poorly to host bacterial cells, and their adsorption rate increases as the fibers become extended. These results suggest that one function of the whiskers is to retract the tail fibers and thereby prevent adsorption to host cells under certain conditions that might be unfavorable for production of phage progeny following infection.

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Additional Information:© 1975 by the National Academy of Sciences. Contributed by William B. Wood, June 4, 1975. We thank F. Frankel and R. Vanderslice for supplying us with wac and CBW mutants and for communicating their results prior to publication. These studies were supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (AI 09238).
Subject Keywords:virus infection; virus-host interaction
Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:CONpnas75
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7475
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:23 Feb 2007
Last Modified:02 Oct 2019 23:42

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