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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2008 May;77(5 Pt 1):051904. Epub 2008 May 8.

Controlling viral capsid assembly with templating.

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Department of Physics, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 02454, USA.


We develop coarse-grained models that describe the dynamic encapsidation of functionalized nanoparticles by viral capsid proteins. We find that some forms of cooperative interactions between protein subunits and nanoparticles can dramatically enhance rates and robustness of assembly, as compared to the spontaneous assembly of subunits into empty capsids. For large core-subunit interactions, subunits adsorb onto core surfaces en masse in a disordered manner, and then undergo a cooperative rearrangement into an ordered capsid structure. These assembly pathways are unlike any identified for empty capsid formation. Our models can be directly applied to recent experiments in which viral capsid proteins assemble around functionalized inorganic nanoparticles [Sun, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 1354 (2007)]. In addition, we discuss broader implications for understanding the dynamic encapsidation of single-stranded genomic molecules during viral replication and for developing multicomponent nanostructured materials.

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