Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike
Tiny warfare involves tiny weapons. Now a group of biologists has finally described the tiny spike that a bacteriophage uses to invade its bacterial victims.
Bacteriophage are likely the most abundant biological entity on Earth. We know that any scoop of sea water or soil will have billions of bacteria in it. But just like the abundance of viruses that surround humans every day, these bacteria are vastly outnumbered and warding off phages, bacterial viruses.
At the bottom of their angular heads is a long protein shaft that they use to deliver their DNA into their victim. A new structure has been determined showing an iron-tipped spike at the tip of the shaft, almost like a nail to pierce the bacterial membrane.
(via ScienceNOW, images from Cell Press)