The effect of genome length on ejection forces in bacteriophage lambda.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.


  • Paul Grayson
  • Alex Evilevitch
  • P. K. Purohit
  • William M. Gelbart
  • Charles M. Knobler
  • Robert Phillips
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences


  • Bacteriophage, Lambda, LamB, Maltoporin, Genome delivery, DNA ejection, Pressure
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-436
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch