Enterobacteria phage T4

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Enterobacteria phage T4
Artist's rendering.
Artist's rendering.
Virus classification
Group: Group I (dsDNA)
Order: Caudovirales
Family: Myoviridae
Genus: T4-like viruses
Species: T4 Phage
Structural overview of the T4 phage

Enterobacteria phage T4 is a phage that infects E. coli bacteria. Its DNA is 169-170 kbp long; one of the longest DNAs in phages, and is held in an icosahedral head. T4 is also one of the largest phages, at approximately 90 nm wide and 200 nm long (most phages range from 25 to 200 nm in length). Its tail fibres allow attachment to a host cell, and the T4’s tail is hollow so that it can pass its nucleic acid to the cell it is infecting during attachment. T4 is only capable of undergoing a lytic lifecycle and not the lysogenic life cycle.


The lytic lifecycle (from entering a bacterium to its destruction) takes approximately 30 minutes (at 37 °C) and consists of:

After the lifecycle is complete the host cell bursts open and ejects the newly built viruses into the environment, at which point the host cell is destroyed.

Infection Process

The T4 Phage initiates infection of an E. Coli bacterium by recognizing cell surface receptors of the host with its long tail fibers (LTF). A recognition signal is sent through the LTFs to the baseplate. This unravels the short tail fibers (STF) that bind irreversibly to the E. Coli cell surface. The baseplate changes conformation and the tail sheath contracts causing GP5 at the end of the tail tube to puncture the outer membrane of the cell. The lysozyme domain of GP5 is activated and degrades the periplasmic peptidogliycan layer. The remaining part of the membrane is degraded and DNA from the head of the Phage can travel through the tail tube and enter the E. Coli.

Interesting features

The T4 phage has some unique features, such as:

In addition, a number of Nobel Prize winners worked with phage T4 or T4-like phages including Max Delbrück, Salvador Luria, Alfred Hershey, James D. Watson, and Francis Crick. Other important scientists who worked with phage T4 include Michael Rossmann, Seymour Benzer, Bruce Alberts, Gisela Mosig, Richard Lenski, and James Bull. Click here for a more-complete list of phage workers.

T4 Reference Page

References to T4-like phages

The following are key references for individuals involved in T4-like phage isolation and characterization. Instructions for adding or editing references can be found here. A large literature on T4-phage, especially molecular characterization also exists but is not directly addressed in this list; entrance to that literature can be found via a number of the reviews of phage T4 biology listed below.

  • Karam, J., Petrov, V., Nolan, J., Chin, D., Shatley, C., Krisch, H., and Letarov, A. The T4-like phages genome project. http://phage.bioc.tulane.edu/. (the T4-like phage full genomic sequence depository)
  • Mosig, G., and F. Eiserling. 2006. T4 and related phages: structure and development, R. Calendar and S. T. Abedon (eds.), The Bacteriophages. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (review of phage T4 biology) ISBN 0-19-514850-9
  • Filee, J., F. Tetart, C. A. Suttle, and H. M. Krisch. 2005. Marine T4-type bacteriophages, a ubiquitous component of the dark matter of the biosphere. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102:12471-12476. (indication of prevalence and T4-like phages in the wild) full text
  • Chibani-Chennoufi, S., C. Canchaya, A. Bruttin, and H. Brussow. 2004. Comparative genomics of the T4-Like Escherichia coli phage JS98: implications for the evolution of T4 phages. J. Bacteriol. 186:8276-8286. (characterization of a T4-like phage) full text
  • Desplats, C., and H. M. Krisch. 2003. The diversity and evolution of the T4-type bacteriophages. Res. Microbiol. 154:259-267. (characterization of T4-like phages) abstract & pay article
  • Miller, E. S., E. Kutter, G. Mosig, F. Arisaka, T. Kunisawa, and W. Ruger. 2003. Bacteriophage T4 genome. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 67:86-156. (review of phage T4, from the perspective of its genome) full text
  • Desplats, C., C. Dez, F. Tetart, H. Eleaume, and H. M. Krisch. 2002. Snapshot of the genome of the pseudo-T-even bacteriophage RB49. J. Bacteriol. 184:2789-2804. (overview of the RB49 genome, a T4-like phage) full text
  • Tétart, F., C. Desplats, M. Kutateladze, C. Monod, H.-W. Ackermann, and H. M. Krisch. 2001. Phylogeny of the major head and tail genes of the wide-ranging T4-type bacteriophages. J. Bacteriol. 183:358-366. (indication of the prevalence of T4-type sequences in the wild) full text
  • Abedon, S. T. 2000. The murky origin of Snow White and her T-even dwarfs. Genetics 155:481-486. (historical description of the isolation of the T4-like phages T2, T4, and T6) full text
  • Ackermann, H.-W., and H. M. Krisch. 1997. A catalogue of T4-type bacteriophages. Arch Virol 142:2329-2345. (nearly complete list of then-known T4-like phages) abstract & pay article
  • Monod, C., F. Repoila, M. Kutateladze, F. Tétart, and H. M. Krisch. 1997. The genome of the pseudo T-even bacteriophages, a diverse group that resembles T4. J. Mol. Biol. 267:237-249. (overview of various T4-like phages from the perspective of their genomes) abstract & pay article
  • Kutter, E., K. Gachechiladze, A. Poglazov, E. Marusich, M. Shneider, P. Aronsson, A. Napuli, D. Porter, and V. Mesyanzhinov. 1995. Evolution of T4-related phages. Virus Genes 11:285-297. (comparison of the genomes of various T4-like phages) abstract & pay article
  • Karam, J. D. et al. 1994. Molecular Biology of Bacteriophage T4. ASM Press, Washington, DC. (the second T4 bible, go here, as well as Mosig and Eiserling, 2006, to begin to learn about the biology T4 phage) ISBN 1-55581-064-0
  • Eddy, S. R. 1992. Introns in the T-Even Bacteriophages. Ph.D. thesis. University of Colorado at Boulder. (chapter 3 provides overview of various T4-like phages as well as the isolation of then-new T4-like phages)
  • Mathews, C. K., E. M. Kutter, G. Mosig, and P. B. Berget. 1983. Bacteriophage T4. American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC. (the first T4 bible; not all information here is duplicated in Karam et al., 1994; see especially the introductory chapter by Doermann for a historical overview of the T4-like phages) ISBN 0-914826-56-5
  • Russell, R. L. 1967. Speciation Among the T-Even Bacteriophages. Ph.D. thesis. California Institute of Technology. (isolation of the RB series of T4-like phages)
  • Kay, D., and P. Fildes. 1962. Hydroxymethylcytosine-containing and tryptophan-dependent bacteriophages isolated from city effluents. J. Gen. Microbiol. 27:143-146. (T4-like phage isolation, including that of phage Ox2)


  1. Tarahovsky, Y. S. (1994). "Lysis of Escherichia coli cells by bacteriophage T4". FEMS Microbiology Letters. 122: 195–200. doi:10.1111/j.1574-6968.1994.tb07164.x. 
  2. Oda, M. (2004). "Rapid Detection of Escherichia coli O157: H7 by Using Green Fluorescent Protein-Labeled PP01 Bacteriophage". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 70 (1): 527–534. doi:10.1128/AEM.70.1.527-534.2004.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
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