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Published on Jun 27, 2012
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have been able, for the first time, to watch viruses infecting individual bacteria by transferring their DNA, and to measure the rate at which that transfer occurs. Shedding light on the early stages of infection by this type of virus—a bacteriophage—the scientists have determined that it is the cells targeted for infection, rather than the amount of genetic material within the viruses themselves, that dictate how quickly the bacteriophage's DNA is transferred.
This video begins with a lambda bacteriophage attached to an E. coli cell with the phage's DNA labeled with a fluorescent dye. The phage injects its viral DNA into the cell, and as the ejection proceeds, the dye molecules are transferred. Once inside the cell, the dye redistributes to the bacterium's genome, causing the whole cell to light up.