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.
The Simian virus 40 (SV40) capsid is a T = 7d icosahedral lattice ∼45 nm in diameter surrounding the ∼5 kb circular minichromosome. The outer shell is composed of 360 monomers of the major capsid protein VP1, tightly bound in 72 pentamers. VP1 is a jellyroll β-barrel, with extending N- and C-terminal arms. The N-terminal arms bind DNA and face the interior of the capsid. The flexible C-arms tie together the 72 pentamers in three distinct kinds of interactions, thus facilitating the formation of a T = 7 icosahedron from identical pentameric building blocks. Assembly in vivo was shown to occur by addition of capsomers around the DNA. We apply a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches to study SV40 assembly. Our in vivo and in vitro studies suggest the following model: one or two capsomers bind at a high affinity to ses, the viral DNA encapsidation signal, forming the nucleation centre for assembly. Next, multiple capsomers attach concomitantly, at lower affinity, around the minichromosome. This increases their local concentration facilitating rapid, cooperative assembly reaction. Formation of the icosahedron proceeds either by gradual addition of single pentamers to the growing shell or by concerted assembly of pentamer clusters.