Bacteriophage T4 is one of the most complex viruses. More than 40 different proteins form the mature virion, which consists of a protein shell encapsidating a 172-kbp double-stranded genomic DNA, a 'tail,' and fibers, attached to the distal end of the tail. The fibers and the tail carry the host cell recognition sensors and are required for attachment of the phage to the cell surface. The tail also serves as a channel for delivery of the phage DNA from the head into the host cell cytoplasm. The tail is attached to the unique 'portal' vertex of the head through which the phage DNA is packaged during head assembly. Similar to other phages, and also herpes viruses, the unique vertex is occupied by a dodecameric portal protein, which is involved in DNA packaging.
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