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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2007 Mar;75(3 Pt 1):031901. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

Nonlinear finite-element analysis of nanoindentation of viral capsids.

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Recent atomic force microscope (AFM) nanoindentation experiments measuring mechanical response of the protein shells of viruses have provided a quantitative description of their strength and elasticity. To better understand and interpret these measurements, and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, this paper adopts a course-grained modeling approach within the framework of three-dimensional nonlinear continuum elasticity. Homogeneous, isotropic, elastic, thick-shell models are proposed for two capsids: the spherical cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV), and the ellipsocylindrical bacteriophage phi29 . As analyzed by the finite-element method, these models enable parametric characterization of the effects of AFM tip geometry, capsid dimensions, and capsid constitutive descriptions. The generally nonlinear force response of capsids to indentation is shown to be insensitive to constitutive particulars, and greatly influenced by geometric and kinematic details. Nonlinear stiffening and softening of the force response is dependent on the AFM tip dimensions and shell thickness. Fits of the models capture the roughly linear behavior observed in experimental measurements and result in estimates of Young's moduli of approximately 280-360 MPa for CCMV and approximately 4.5 GPa for phi29 .

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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