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Studies of Bacteriophage T4 Tail Fibers and Tail Fiber Genes


Beckendorf, Steven Kent (1972) Studies of Bacteriophage T4 Tail Fibers and Tail Fiber Genes. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/HGWS-XX32.


The distal half of the bacteriophage T4 tail fiber interacts with the surface of the bacterium during adsorption. The largest polypeptide in this half fiber is the product of gene 37 (P37). During assembly of the tail fiber, P37 interacts with the product of gene 38 (P38). These two gene products are incompatible with the corresponding gene products from the related phage T2. T2 P37 does not interact with T4 P38 and T2 P38 does not interact with T4 P37. Crosses between T2 and T4 phages mutant in genes 37 and 38 have shown that the carboxyl end of P37 interacts with P38 and with the bacterial surface. In the corresponding region of gene 37 and in gene 38 there is no recombination between T2 and T4. In the rest of gene 37 there are two small regions with relatively high recombination and a region of low recombination.

When T2/T4 heteroduplex DNA molecules are examined in the electron microscope four nonhomologous loops appear in the region of genes 37 and 38. Heteroduplexes between hybrid phages which have part of gene 37 from T4 and part from T2 have roughly located gene 37 mutations in the heteroduplex pattern. For a more precise location of the , mutations a physical map of gene 37 was constructed by determining the molecular weights of amber polypeptide fragments on polyacrylamide gels in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate. When the physical and heteroduplex maps are aligned, the regions of low recombination correspond to regions of nonhomology between T2 and T4. Regions with relatively high recombination are homologous.

The molecular weight of T2 P37 is about 13,000 greater than that of T4 P37. Analysis of hybrid phage has shown that this molecular weight difference is all at the carboxyl end of P37.

An antiserum has been prepared which is specific for the distal half fiber of T4. Tests of the ability of gene 37 hybrids to block this antiserum show that there are at least 4 subclasses of antigen specified by different parts of P37.

Observations in the electron microscope of the tailfiber - anti- body complexes formed by the gene 37 hybrids and the specific anti- serum have shown that P37 is oriented linearly in the distal half fiber with its N-terminus near the joint between the two half fibers and its C-terminus near the tip of the fiber. These observations lead to a simple model for the structure of the distal half fiber.

The high recombination in T4 gene 34 was also investigated. A comparison of genetic and physical maps of gene 34 showed that there is a gradient of increasing recombination near one end of the gene.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:(Biochemistry and Genetics)
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biochemistry
Minor Option:Biology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wood, William B.
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:5 January 1972
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Public Health ServiceAI-09238
NSF Graduate FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03072016-145346915
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9607
Deposited On:08 Mar 2016 16:02
Last Modified:03 Aug 2021 18:57

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