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J Mol Biol. 2005 Jul 15;350(3):528-42. Epub 2005 Apr 7.

Normal mode calculations of icosahedral viruses with full dihedral flexibility by use of molecular symmetry.

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Computational Drug Design Group, Biogen Idec, 14 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


The study of the dynamics and thermodynamics of small icosahedral virus capsids is an active field of research. Normal mode analysis is one of the computational tools that can provide important insights into the conformational changes of the virus associated with cell entry or caused by changing of the physicochemical environment. Normal mode analysis of virus capsids has been limited due to the size of these systems, which often exceed 50,000 residues. Here we present the first normal mode calculation with full dihedral flexibility of several virus capsids, including poliovirus, rhinovirus, and cowpea chlorotic mottle virus. The calculations were made possible by applying group theoretical methods, which greatly simplified the calculations without any approximation beyond the all-atom force field representations in general use for smaller protein systems. Since a full Cartesian basis set was too large to be handled by the available computer memory, we used a basis set that includes all internal dihedral angles of the system with the exception of the peptide bonds, which were assumed rigid. The fluctuations of the normal modes are shown to correlate well with crystallographic temperature factors. The motions of the first several normal modes of each symmetry type are described. A hinge bending motion in poliovirus was found that may be involved in the mechanism by which bound small molecules inhibit conformational changes of the capsid. Fully flexible normal mode calculations of virus capsids are expected to increase our understanding of virus dynamics and thermodynamics, and can be useful in the refinement of cryo-electron microscopy structures of viruses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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