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Curr Opin Virol. 2011 Aug;1(2):142-9. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2011.06.003.

Herpesvirus capsid assembly: insights from structural analysis.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, 22908, USA. JCB2G@VIRGINIA.EDU


In all herpesviruses, the capsid is icosahedral in shape, composed of 162 capsomers, and assembled in the infected cell nucleus. Once a closed capsid has formed, it is packaged with the virus DNA and transported to the cytoplasm where further morphogenetic events take place. Herpesvirus capsid populations are highly uniform in shape, and this property has made them attractive for structural analysis particularly by cryo electron microscopy followed by three-dimensional image reconstruction. Here we describe what is known about herpesvirus capsid structure and assembly with emphasis on herpes simplex virus and on the contribution of structural studies. The overall analysis has demonstrated that herpesvirus capsids are formed by a pathway resembling that established for dsDNA bacteriophage such as P22 and HK97. For example herpes capsid assembly is found to: (1) involve a scaffolding protein not present in the mature virus; (2) proceed through a fragile, spherical procapsid intermediate; and (3) result in incorporation of a portal complex at a unique capsid vertex.

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