The lipid-containing bacteriophage PR4. Effects of altered lipid composition on the virion

Eric D. Muller, John E. Cronan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phage PR4 was grown on a variety of Escherichia coli mutants defective in fatty acid and phospholipid metabolism. The composition of the phage lipids was modified by changing the composition of the host membrane phospholipids. The compositions of both the polar and the acyl moieties of the phospholipids were altered. The proportion of saturated fatty acids in the phage phospholipids was increased in increments from 44% of the total fatty acids to 55%, 61% and 69% of the total fatty acids using a host mutant with a temperature-sensitive defect in unsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis. The increase in saturated fatty acids led to a pronounced loss of infectivity when the phage were incubated at temperatures between 2°C and 30°C (temperatures below those at which the phage were grown). The greater the level of saturated fatty acids in the phage phospholipids, the higher the temperature below which the phage were inactivated. Our results strongly suggest that the phage membrane undergoes a lipid phase transition, which can disrupt and inactivate the virion. The phospholipid composition of PR4 was also altered by using host mutants defective in phosphatidylethanolamine and/or cardiolipin synthesis. Phage PR4 grown on wild-type host strains contains 56% phosphatidylethanolamine, 37% phosphatidylglycerol, 4·6% cardiolipin and no detectable phosphatidylserine. However, in response to changes in this host, PR4 preparations were obtained with phospholipid compositions varying from 28% to 60% in phosphatidylethanolamine, from 22% to 39% in phosphatidylglycerol, from 1% to 15% in cardiolipin and containing as much as 35% phosphatidylserine. These changes in phospholipid composition did not affect the infectivity of the phage. Moreover, the increased level of phosphatidylglycerol in the phage relative to the host was not altered by these manipulations. It is concluded that the net charge of the phage membrane phospholipids is not involved in the selection or function of the viral phospholipids. We also present evidence suggesting that the phage and host membranes do not fuse during the course of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 25 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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