In this study the hypothesis considering the requirement for an electrochemical proton gradient in the injection of phage T4 DNA into Escherichia coli cell has been verified experimentally. The phage caused a reversible depolarization of cell membrane, while phage 'ghosts' induced an irreversible depolarization. The phage infection was strictly dependent on E. coli membrane potential value when phage/cell ratio was 5 and higher. When the ratio was close to 1, the decrease in the membrane potential up to -100 mV caused practically no effect on the phage infection. The infection inhibition was observed when the membrane potential was lowered below this 'threshold' value. On the other hand, the decrease in the membrane potential caused no effect on the phage infection under conditions promoting a concomitant increase in the value of the transmembranous pH gradient. The phage DNA transfer through the membrane of ATPase-deficient cells was reversibly inhibited by switching off the respiratory chain - the sole generator of a protonmotive force in these mutant cells. The membrane should be kept in the energized state during the phage DNA entrance into the cell. Adsorption of the phage on E. coli was followed by the reversible release of the respiratory control. Thus the results presented here indicate the requirement of the electrochemical proton gradient across the plasma membrane for injection of phage T4 DNA into E. coli. They support the concept postulating an expenditure of host cell metabolic energy for phage T4 DNA transfer through the membrane.