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Rather than acting as rigid symmetrical shells to protect and transmit their genomes, the capsids of non-enveloped, icosahedral viruses co-ordinate multiple, essential processes during the viral life-cycle, and undergo extensive conformational rearrangements to deliver these functions. Capturing conformational flexibility has been challenging, yet could be key in understanding and combating infections that viruses cause. Noroviruses are non-enveloped, icosahedral viruses of global importance to human health. They are a common cause of acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis, yet no vaccines or antiviral agents specific to norovirus are available. Here, we use cryo-electron microscopy to study the high-resolution solution structures of infectious, inactivated and mutant virions of murine norovirus (MNV) as a model for human noroviruses. Together with genetic studies, we show that the viral capsid is highly dynamic. While there is little change to the shell domain of the capsid, the protruding domains that radiate from this are flexible and adopt distinct states both independently and synchronously. In doing so the viral capsid is able to sample a defined range of conformational space, with implications for the maintenance of virion stability and infectivity. These data will aid in developing the first generation of effective control measures against this virus.
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