Membrane fusion in prokaryotes: bacteriophage phi 6 membrane fuses with the Pseudomonas syringae outer membrane

EMBO J. 1987 May;6(5):1467-73.


Protein-triggered membrane fusion in the prokaryotic system is described using the lipid-containing enveloped bacterial virus phi 6 and its host, the Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. Bacteriophage particles can be fused to form multiple particles where two or more nucleocapsids are surrounded by a single membrane vesicle with a volume proportional to the number of fused particles. For fusion to occur, a fusogenic protein is required in the membrane of the participating phage particles. Upon infection of the host cell, fusion of the viral membrane with the bacterial membrane takes place without leakage of the periplasmic enzyme alkaline phosphatase to the extracellular supernatant. There is a time-dependent mixing of fluorescent phage phospholipids with the bacterial membrane lipids between 5 and 20 min post-infection. The phage membrane proteins and phospholipids co-purify with the bacterial outer membrane of infected cells. The fusion is independent of divalent cations and pH, resembling Sendai virus fusion with the plasma membrane. This is the first targeted, protein-dependent fusion event described in prokaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / analysis
  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Bacteriophages / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Membrane Lipids / physiology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pseudomonas / physiology*
  • Pseudomonas / ultrastructure


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Alkaline Phosphatase