Bacterial viruses (or bacteriophages) have developed formidable ways to deliver their genetic information inside bacteria, overcoming the complexity of the bacterial-cell envelope. In short-tailed phages of the Podoviridae superfamily, genome ejection is mediated by a set of mysterious internal virion proteins, also called ejection or pilot proteins, which are required for infectivity. The ejection proteins are challenging to study due to their plastic structures and transient assembly and have remained less characterized than classical components such as the phage coat protein or terminase subunit. However, a spate of recent cryo-EM structures has elucidated key features underscoring these proteins’ assembly and conformational gymnastics that accompany their expulsion from the virion head through the portal protein channel into the host. In this review, we will use a phage-T7-centric approach to critically review the status of the literature on ejection proteins, decipher the conformational changes of T7 ejection proteins in the pre- and post-ejection conformation, and predict the conservation of these proteins in other Podoviridae. The challenge is to relate the structure of the ejection proteins to the mechanisms of genome ejection, which are exceedingly complex and use the host’s machinery
Recommended CitationSwanson, Nicholas A.; Hou, Chun-Feng; and Cingolani, Gino, "Viral Ejection Proteins: Mosaically Conserved, Conformational Gymnasts" (2022). Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 208.
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