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An atomic force microscopy investigation of cyanophage structure.

  • Author(s): Kuznetsov, Yurii G;
  • Chang, Sheng-Chieh;
  • Credaroli, Arielle;
  • Martiny, Jennifer;
  • McPherson, Alexander
  • et al.

Marine viruses have only relatively recently come to the attention of molecular biologists, and the extraordinary diversity of potential host organisms suggests a new wealth of genetic and structural forms. A promising technology for characterizing and describing the viruses structurally is atomic force microscopy (AFM). We provide examples here of some of the different architectures and novel structural features that emerge from even a very limited investigation, one focused on cyanophages, viruses that infect cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). These were isolated by phage selection of viruses collected from California coastal waters. We present AFM images of tailed, spherical, filamentous, rod shaped viruses, and others of eccentric form. Among the tailed phages numerous myoviruses were observed, some having long tail fibers, some other none, and some having no visible baseplate. Syphoviruses and a podovirus were also seen. We also describe a unique structural features found on some tailed marine phages that appear to have no terrestrial homolog. These are long, 450 nm, complex helical tail fibers terminating in a unique pattern of 3+1 globular units made up of about 20 small proteins.

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