Domain organization and polarity of tail needle GP26 in the portal vertex structure of bacteriophage P22

J Mol Biol. 2007 Aug 10;371(2):374-87. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.05.051. Epub 2007 May 24.


The attachment of tailed bacteriophages to the host cell wall as well as the penetration and injection of the viral genome into the host is mediated by the virion tail complex. In phage P22, a member of the Podoviridae family that infects Salmonella enterica, the tail contains an approximately 220 A elongated protein needle, previously identified as tail accessory factor gp26. Together with tail factors gp4 and gp10, gp26 is critical to close the portal protein channel and retain the viral DNA inside the capsid. By virtue of its topology and position in the virion, the tail needle gp26 is thought to function as a penetrating device to perforate the Salmonella cell wall. Here, we define the domain organization of gp26, characterize the structural determinants for its stability, and define the polarity of the gp26 assembly into the phage portal vertex structure. We have found that the N-terminal 27 residues of gp26 form a functional domain that, although not required for gp26 trimerization and overall stability, is essential for the correct attachment to gp10, which is thought to plug the portal vertex structure. The region downstream of domain I, domain II, folds into helical core, which exhibits four trimerization octad repeats with consensus Ile-xx-Leu-xxx-Val/Tyr. We demonstrate that in vitro, domain II represents the main self-assembling, highly stable trimerization core of gp26, which retains a folded conformation both in an anhydrous environment and in the presence of 10% SDS. The C terminus of gp26, immediately downstream of domain II, contains a beta-sheet-rich region, domain III, and a short coiled coil, domain IV, which, although not required for gp26 trimerization, enhance its thermodynamic stability. We propose that domains III and IV of the tail needle form the tip utilized by the phage to penetrate the host cell wall.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / genetics
  • Alanine / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage P22 / chemistry*
  • Bacteriophage P22 / genetics
  • Bacteriophage P22 / metabolism*
  • Guanidine / pharmacology
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Transition Temperature
  • Tryptophan / genetics
  • Tryptophan / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*


  • Viral Proteins
  • Tryptophan
  • Guanidine
  • Alanine