Length and shape variants of the bacteriophage T4 head: mutations in the scaffolding core genes 68 and 22

J Virol. 1988 Aug;62(8):2960-9. doi: 10.1128/JVI.62.8.2960-2969.1988.


The shape and size of the bacteriophage T4 head are dependent on genes that determine the scaffolding core and the shell of the prohead. Mutants of the shell proteins affect mainly the head length. Two recently identified genes (genes 67 and 68) and one already known gene (gene 22), whose products are scaffold constituents, have been investigated. Different types of mutants were shown to strongly influence the proportion of aberrantly shaped particles. By model building, these shape variants could be represented as polyhedral bodies derived from icosahedra, through outgrowths along different polyhedral axes. The normal, prolate particle is obtained by elongation along a fivefold axis. The mutations of the three core genes (genes 67, 68, and 22) affect the width mainly by lateral outgrowths of the prolate particle, although small and large isometric particles are also found. Many of the aberrant particles are multitailed, suggesting a correlation between tail attachment sites and shape.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Genes, Viral*
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Immunologic Techniques
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Weight
  • Morphogenesis
  • Phenotype
  • T-Phages / genetics
  • T-Phages / ultrastructure*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / physiology*
  • Virus Replication


  • Glycoproteins
  • Viral Proteins