Journal of Theoretical Medicine
Volume 6 (2005), Issue 2, Pages 69-72

Assembly and Disassembly of Viral Capsids

1Department of Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, LA 90095, USA
2Department of Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, LA 90095, USA

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We address here a theoretical basis for the icosahedral symmetry that is observed so commonly for viral capsids, i.e., the single-protein-thick rigid shells that protect the viral genome. In particular, we outline the phenomenological hamiltonian approach developed recently (see Zandi, R., Reguera, D., Bruinsma, R., Gelbart, W.M. and Rudnick, J. (2004), Original of icosahedral symmetry in viruses, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 101, 15556–15560) to account for the overwhelming prevalence of the Caspar-Klug “T-number” structures that are found for “spherical” viruses. We feature the role of “conformational switching energies” defining the competing multimeric states of the protein subunits. The results of Monte Carlo simulation of this model are argued to shed light as well on the mechanical properties and genome release mechanism for these viruses.