Reguera Research Group

... at University of Barcelona

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Home Research Physics of Viruses Mechanical properties

Mechanical properties


The protein shell of a virus (capsid) is built by multiple copies of one (or few) protein subunit(s), and their weak-weak interactions (not much higher than the thermal energy) are enough to lead the self-assembly of the proteins into a stable structure. This process depends on the concentration of viral proteins, the pH, the salinity, and the temperature of the solution, and for different conditions the same viral porteins are able to build different structures. However the final capsid can be very robust to changes in the biological conditions of the environment, and for instance some viruses can stand an osmotic pressure of ~100atm. These mechanical robustness allows viruses to survive in different environments until infecting a new host and are also important in the delivery of the genetic material. We are studying the mechanical properties of viral shells from a global and local point of view trying to understand how the resistance and mechanical properties of viruses are related to their capsid structure.

Figure: local stress picture of several icosahedral capsids (Zandi and Reguera, PRL 2005).