The effect of genome length on ejection forces in bacteriophage lambda

Paul Grayson, Alex Evilevitch, Mandar M. Inamdar, Prashant K. Purohit, William M. Gelbart, Charles M. Knobler, Rob Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A variety of viruses tightly pack their genetic material into protein capsids that are barely large enough to enclose the genome. In particular, in bacteriophages, forces as high as 60 pN are encountered during packaging and ejection, produced by DNA bending elasticity and self-interactions. The high forces are believed to be important for the ejection process, though the extent of their involvement is not yet clear. As a result, there is a need for quantitative models and experiments that reveal the nature of the forces relevant to DNA ejection. Here, we report measurements of the ejection forces for two different mutants of bacteriophage λ, λb221cI26 and λcI60, which differ in genome length by ∼30%. As expected for a force-driven ejection mechanism, the osmotic pressure at which DNA release is completely inhibited varies with the genome length: we find inhibition pressures of 15 atm and 25 atm, for the short and long genomes, respectively, values that are in agreement with our theoretical calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-436
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacteriophage
  • DNA ejection
  • Genome delivery
  • LamB
  • Lambda
  • Maltoporin
  • Pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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