Lysis and lysis inhibition in bacteriophage T4: rV mutations reside in the holin t gene.
Upon infecting populations of susceptible host cells, T-even bacteriophages maximize their yield by switching from lysis at about 25 to 35 min at 37 degrees C after infection by a single phage particle to long-delayed lysis (lysis inhibition) under conditions of sequential infection occurring when free phages outnumber host cells. The timing of lysis depends upon gene t and upon one or more rapid-lysis (r) genes whose inactivation prevents lysis inhibition. t encodes a holin that mediates the movement of the T4 endolysin though the inner cell membrane to its target, the cell wall. The rI protein has been proposed to sense superinfection. Of the five reasonably well characterized r genes, only two, rI and rV, are clearly obligatory for lysis inhibition. We show here that rV mutations are alleles of t that probably render the t protein unable to respond to the lysis inhibition signal. The tr alleles cluster in the 5' third of t and produce a strong r phenotype, whereas conditional-lethal t alleles produce the classical t phenotype (inability to lyse) and other t alleles produce additional, still poorly understood phenotypes. tr mutations are dominant to t+, a result that suggests specific ways to probe T4 holin function.
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