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Bridges Across the Periplasmic Moat

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Gram-negative bacteria pose a particular challenge to any enterprising phage. First the phage is met by the outer membrane (OM)—a barrier to surmount that also can be used as a convenient handgrip for adsorption. Next hazard is the nuclease-infested periplasm with its jungle of peptidoglycan. An infecting phage genome needs protection to cross that compartment intact. For this, most tailed phages (the order Caudovirales) use the ‘long straw’ method. These phages are equipped with l-o-n-g tails for bridging the periplasmic moat. But what about the short-tailed ones such as T7? And what about the roly-poly icosahedral phages that have no tail at all? They all have one innovative solution or another. As evidence, here are three diverse examples of delicious phage ingenuity.

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