Forces Controlling the Rate of DNA Ejection from Phage λ

David Löf, Karin Schillén, Bengt Jönsson, Alex Evilevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this work was to investigate how internal and external forces acting on DNA affect the rate of genome ejection from bacteriophage λ after the ejection is triggered in vitro by a λ receptor. The rate of ejection was measured with time-resolved static and dynamic light scattering, while varying such parameters as temperature and packaged DNA length, as well as adding DNA-binding proteins to the host solution. We found that temperature has a strong effect on the ejection rate, with an exponential increase of the initial ejection rate as a function of temperature. This can possibly be explained by the temperature-induced conformational changes in the tail pore-forming proteins where the "open" conformation dominates over "closed", at elevated temperatures. The DNA length also had an effect on initial ejection rate, with a nearly linear dependence comparing the three different genomes (37.7, 45.7 and 48.5 kb DNA), with faster ejection rate for longer genomes. Since the initial rate of ejection increases in an almost direct relationship with the length of the genome, the total time needed to eject DNA completely appeared to be nearly constant for all three DNA length phage mutants. The increased initial rate of ejection with increasing DNA length is due to the increased DNA bending and inter-strand repulsion forces for the longer DNA chains. Finally, we also show that addition of non-specific DNA-binding proteins (HU and DNase I) increases the rate of ejection by exerting additional "pulling" forces on the DNA that is being ejected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-65
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 20 2007


  • DNA ejection kinetics
  • DNA pressure
  • HU
  • light scattering
  • phage ejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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