Role of osmotic and hydrostatic pressures in bacteriophage genome ejection

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Lemay, Serge G.
Panja, Debabrata
Molineux, Ian J.

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A critical step in the bacteriophage life cycle is genome ejection into host bacteria. The ejection process for double-stranded DNA phages has been studied thoroughly in vitro, where after triggering with the cellular receptor the genome ejects into a buffer. The experimental data have been interpreted in terms of the decrease in free energy of the densely packed DNA associated with genome ejection. Here we detail a simple model of genome ejection in terms of the hydrostatic and osmotic pressures inside the phage, a bacterium, and a buffer solution or culture medium. We argue that the hydrodynamic flow associated with the water movement from the buffer solution into the phage capsid and further drainage into the bacterial cytoplasm, driven by the osmotic gradient between the bacterial cytoplasm and culture medium, provides an alternative mechanism for phage genome ejection in vivo; the mechanism is perfectly consistent with phage genome ejection in vitro. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.87.022714


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Lemay, Serge G., Debabrata Panja, and Ian J. Molineux. "Role of osmotic and hydrostatic pressures in bacteriophage genome ejection." Physical Review E 87, no. 2 (2013): 022714.