The inactivation of the phages T1, T2, T3, T5, T7, and λ by decay of incorporated P32 has been studied. It was found that these phages fall into two classes of sensitivity to P32 decay: at the same specific activity of P32 in their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), T2 and T5 are inactivated three times as rapidly as T1, T3, T7, and λ. Since the strains of the first class were found to contain about three times as much total phosphorus per phage particle as those of the second) it appears that the fraction of all P32 disintegrations which are lethal is very nearly the same in all the strains. This fraction α depends on the temperature at which decay is allowed to proceed, being 0.05 at –196°C., 0.1 at +4°C., and 0.3 at 65°C.
Decay of P32 taking place only after the penetration of the DNA of a radioactive phage particle into the interior of the bacterial cell can still prevent the reproduction of the parental phage, albeit inactivation now proceeds at a slightly reduced rate. T2 phages inactivated by decay of P32 can be cross-reactivated; i.e., donate some of their genetic characters to the progeny of a mixed infection with a non-radioactive phage. They do not, however, exhibit any multiplicity reactivation or photoreactivation.
The fact that at low temperatures less than one-tenth of the P32 disintegrations are lethal to the phage particle and the dependence of the fraction of lethal disintegrations on temperature can be accounted for by the double stranded structure of the DNA macromolecule.