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Coarse-grained simulation reveals key features of HIV-1 capsid self-assembly

By John M A Grime, James F Dama, Barbie K Ganser-Pornillos, Cora L Woodward, Grant J. Jensen, Mark J Yeager, Gregory A. Voth

Posted 23 Feb 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/040741 (published DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11568)

The maturation of HIV-1 viral particles is essential for viral infectivity. During maturation, many copies of the capsid protein (CA) self-assemble into a capsid shell to enclose the viral RNA. The mechanistic details of the initiation and early stages of capsid assembly remain to be delineated. We present coarse-grained simulations of capsid assembly under various conditions, considering not only capsid lattice self-assembly but also the potential disassembly of capsid upon delivery to the cytoplasm of a target cell. The effects of CA concentration, molecular crowding, and the conformational variability of CA are described, with results indicating that capsid nucleation and growth is a multi-stage process requiring well-defined metastable intermediates. Generation of the mature capsid lattice is sensitive to local conditions, with relatively subtle changes in CA concentration and molecular crowding influencing self-assembly and the ensemble of structural morphologies.

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