Viruses: Incredible nanomachines. New advances with filamentous phages

Marcus A. Hemminga, Werner L. Vos, Petr V. Nazarov, Rob B.M. Koehorst, Cor J.A.M. Wolfs, Ruud B. Spruijt, David Stopar

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    64 Citations (Scopus)


    During recent decades, bacteriophages have been at the cutting edge of new developments in molecular biology, biophysics, and, more recently, bionanotechnology. In particular filamentous viruses, for example bacteriophage M13, have a virion architecture that enables precision building of ordered and defect-free two and three-dimensional structures on a nanometre scale. This could not have been possible without detailed knowledge of coat protein structure and dynamics during the virus reproduction cycle. The results of the spectroscopic studies conducted in our group compellingly demonstrate a critical role of membrane embedment of the protein both during infectious entry of the virus into the host cell and during assembly of the new virion in the host membrane. The protein is effectively embedded in the membrane by a strong C-terminal interfacial anchor, which together with a simple tilt mechanism and a subtle structural adjustment of the extreme end of its N terminus provides favourable thermodynamical association of the protein in the lipid bilayer. This basic physicochemical rule cannot be violated and any new bionanotechnology that will emerge from bacteriophage M13 should take this into account.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)541-550
    Number of pages10
    JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • Bionanotechnology
    • M13 bacteriophage
    • Major coat protein
    • Membrane protein anchoring
    • Site-directed labelling


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