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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2005 Aug;72(2 Pt 1):021917. Epub 2005 Aug 31.

Mechanical properties of viral capsids.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1569, USA.


Viruses are known to tolerate wide ranges of pH and salt conditions and to withstand internal pressures as high as 100 atmospheres . In this paper we investigate the mechanical properties of viral capsids, calling explicit attention to the inhomogeneity of the shells that is inherent to their discrete and polyhedral nature. We calculate the distribution of stress in these capsids and analyze their response to isotropic internal pressure (arising, for instance, from genome confinement and/or osmotic activity). We compare our results with appropriate generalizations of classical (i.e., continuum) elasticity theory. We also examine competing mechanisms for viral shell failure, e.g., in-plane crack formation vs radial bursting. The biological consequences of the special stabilities and stress distributions of viral capsids are also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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