The DNA-packaging nanomotor of tailed bacteriophages

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Aug 12;9(9):647-57. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2632.


Tailed bacteriophages use nanomotors, or molecular machines that convert chemical energy into physical movement of molecules, to insert their double-stranded DNA genomes into virus particles. These viral nanomotors are powered by ATP hydrolysis and pump the DNA into a preformed protein container called a procapsid. As a result, the virions contain very highly compacted chromosomes. Here, I review recent progress in obtaining structural information for virions, procapsids and the individual motor protein components, and discuss single-molecule in vitro packaging reactions, which have yielded important new information about the mechanism by which these powerful molecular machines translocate DNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / physiology
  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Bacteriophages / ultrastructure
  • Capsid / physiology*
  • Capsid / ultrastructure
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • DNA Packaging / physiology*
  • DNA, Viral / physiology*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / physiology*


  • DNA, Viral
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate