Phage DNA transport across membranes

Res Microbiol. 1999 Oct;150(8):499-505. doi: 10.1016/s0923-2508(99)00107-2.


Phage nucleic acid transport is atypical in bacterial membrane transport: it is unidirectional and concerns a unique molecule the size of which may represent 50 times that of the bacterium. The rate of DNA transport, although it varies from one phage to another, can reach values as high as 3000 bp s(-1). This raises the following questions which will be discussed in this review. Is there a single mechanism of transport for all types of phages? Does the phage genome cross the outer and inner membranes by a unique mechanism? Is it transported as a free molecule or in association with proteins? How does it avoid periplasmic nucleases? Is such transport dependent on phage and/or host cell components? What is the driving force for transport? Recent cryoelectron microscopy experiments will be presented which show that it is possible to encapsulate a phage genome (121000 bp) into unilamellar liposomes. The interest of such a model system in gene delivery and in the study of the mechanisms of DNA compaction will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Liposomes / ultrastructure
  • Peptidoglycan / metabolism
  • Proton-Motive Force / physiology
  • Receptors, Virus / chemistry
  • T-Phages / metabolism*
  • T-Phages / ultrastructure


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • DNA, Viral
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • FhuA protein, E coli
  • Liposomes
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Receptors, Virus