Understanding viral assembly pathways is of critical importance to biology, medicine, and nanotechology. Here, we study the assembly path of a system with various structures, the simian vacuolating virus 40 (SV40) polymorphs. We simulate the templated assembly process of VP1 pentamers, which are the constituents of SV40, into icosahedal shells made of N = 12 pentamers (T = 1). The simulations include connections formed between pentamers by C-terminal flexible lateral units, termed here “C-terminal ligands”, which are shown to control assembly behavior and shell dynamics. The model also incorporates electrostatic attractions between the N-terminal peptide strands (ligands) and the negatively charged cargo, allowing for agreement with experiments of RNA templated assembly at various pH and ionic conditions. During viral assembly, pentamers bound to any template increase its effective size due to the length and flexibility of the C-terminal ligands, which can connect to other VP1 pentamers and recruit them to a partially completed capsid. All closed shells formed other than the T = 1 feature the ability to dynamically rearrange and are thus termed “pseudo-closed”. The N = 13 shell can even spontaneously “self-correct” by losing a pentamer and become a T = 1 capsid when the template size fluctuates. Bound pentamers recruiting additional pentamers to dynamically rearranging capsids allow closed shells to continue growing via the pseudo-closed growth mechanism, for which experimental evidence already exists. Overall, we show that the C-terminal ligands control the dynamic assembly paths of SV40 polymorphs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- !!General Engineering
- !!General Materials Science
- !!General Physics and Astronomy