Research Highlights: In-Depth Structural Analysis of Staphylococcus aureus Bacteriophage Baseplate

Schematic diagram of the bacteriophage baseplate (left). Isosurface representation of the 80α bacteriophage baseplate (center). Cutaway side view, showing the inside of the tail (right). Image source:

Original Article:

  • Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of infections in humans.
  • S. aureus or “staph” is a type of bacteria found on human skin, in the nose, armpit, groin, and other areas.
  • S. aureus do not always cause harm, but they can make you sick under the right circumstances.
  • S. aureus is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infections, such as abscesses, boils, furuncles, and cellulitis.
  • The appearance of virulent, antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus is a notable public health concern.
  • Mobile genetic elements and transduction by a virus encode most of the virulence and resistance factors in S. aureus.
  • Transduction refers to the transfer of bacterial DNA by a virus (bacteriophage) or viral vector from an infected bacterium to another bacterium.
  • The baseplate is a specialized structure at the tip of bacteriophage tails that plays key roles in recognizing host, penetrating the cell wall, and ejecting DNA to the host.
Schematic diagram of bacteriophage T4. Image Source:
  • Researchers used high-resolution microscopy to determine the structure of the S. aureus bacteriophage baseplate.
  • This microscopic analysis allows atomic models to be built for most of the major tail and baseplate proteins which includes the two tail fibers, the receptor binding protein, and part of the tape measure protein.
  • The data provide a structural groundwork for understanding host recognition, cell wall penetration and DNA ejection in viruses infecting Gram-positive bacteria.
  • Comparison to other phages demonstrates the modular design of baseplate proteins, and the adaptations to the host that take place during the evolution of staphylococci and other pathogens.


Kizziah JL, Manning KA, Dearborn AD, Dokland T (2020). Structure of the host cell recognition and penetration machinery of a Staphylococcus aureus bacteriophage. PLoS Pathog 16(2): e1008314.,%20Genetic

Keywords: viral baseplate, bacteriophage baseplate, what is baseplate in phages, phage tail, bacteriophage tail, viral tail

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