The process draws the DNA strand upwards into the capsid where it is protected from damage, enabling the virus to survive and reproduce. After the DNA is inside the capsid, the motor falls off, and a virus tail attaches to the capsid.
Until now, researchers did not know how T4, or any other virus, accomplished the DNA packaging. According to Rao, "Since the assembly of herpes viruses closely resembles that of T4, this research might provide insights on how to manipulate herpes infections."
While many questions remain, adds Rossmann, the virus may lend itself to a variety for medical purposes. One example Rossmann cites is as a potential new weapon to fight dangerous microbes.
"Bacteriophages like T4 are a completely alternative way of dealing with unwanted bacteria. The virus can kill bacteria in its process of reproduction, so use of such viruses as antibiotics has been a long looked-for alternative to overcome the problems which we now have with antibiotics."
|Contact: Joshua A. Chamot|
National Science Foundation