Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author's final published version in Science Advances, Volume 8, Issue 49, December 2022, Article number eadc9641.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2022 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.


Sf6 is a bacterial virus that infects the human pathogen Shigella flexneri. Here, we describe the cryo–electron microscopy structure of the Sf6 tail machine before DNA ejection, which we determined at a 2.7-angstrom resolution. We built de novo structures of all tail components and resolved four symmetry-mismatched interfaces. Unexpectedly, we found that the tail exists in two conformations, rotated by ~6° with respect to the capsid. The two tail conformers are identical in structure but differ solely in how the portal and head-to-tail adaptor carboxyl termini bond with the capsid at the fivefold vertex, similar to a diamond held over a five-pronged ring in two nonidentical states. Thus, in the mature Sf6 tail, the portal structure does not morph locally to accommodate the symmetry mismatch but exists in two energetic minima rotated by a discrete angle. We propose that the design principles of the Sf6 tail are conserved across P22-like Podoviridae.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

PubMed ID






To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.