Viral Structural Functions
Country: United States
Date: January 2007
What are the functions of the hereditary material
and protein coat of the bacteriophage?
The DNA or RNA of the bacteriophage carries the information for
synthesizing the proteins and enzymes necessary for making more virus
particles when the bacteriophage infects the host bacterial cell.
The protein coat is necessary for the virus to attach to the host cell and
inject its genetic material into the cell.
Ron Baker, Ph.D.
As you probably know, a bacteriophage is a virus that specifically attacks
bacteria. Viruses are not considered by some scientists to be alive,
because they don't fit all of the characteristics of living things. Of
course, other scientists say, "POSH! Of course they are alive because they
get themselves replicated". So, viruses are made of just nucleic acid,
either DNA or RNA, that is wrapped in protein. The hereditary material
contains the instructions the virus needs to get into the host cell, have
the cell make more copies of it, and to get out of the host cell. The
protein coat then protects it while it is in transit to another host.
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Update: June 2012