Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine
Volume 9 (2008), Issue 3-4, Pages 167-173
Original Article

Exploring the Interplay between Virology and Molecular Crystallography

Theoretical Physics, Faculty of Science, Radboud University, Toernooiveld, Nijmegen NL-6525 ED, The Netherlands

Received 29 December 2007; Accepted 2 April 2008

Copyright © 2008 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.


Polyhedra with icosahedral symmetry and vertices labelled by rational indices of points of a six-dimensional lattice left invariant by the icosahedral group allow a morphological characterization of icosahedral viruses which includes the Caspar–Klug classification as a special case. Scaling transformations relating the indexed polyhedron enclosing the surface with the one delimiting the central cavity lead to models of viral capsids observed in nature. Similar scaling relations can be obtained from projected images in three dimensions of higher-dimensional crystallographic point groups having the icosahedral group as a subgroup. This crystallographic approach can be extended to axial-symmetric clusters of coat proteins around icosahedral axes of the capsid. One then gets enclosing forms with vertices at points of lattices left invariant by the corresponding point group and having additional crystallographic properties also observed in natural crystals, but not explained by the known crystallographic laws.