Structural basis for biologically relevant mechanical stiffening of a virus capsid by cavity-creating or spacefilling mutations

Pablo Guerra, Alejandro Valbuena, Jordi Querol-Audí, Cristina Silva, Milagros Castellanos, Alicia Rodríguez-Huete, Damia Garriga, Mauricio G. Mateu, Nuria Verdaguer

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies reveal that the mechanical properties of virus particles may have been shaped by evolution to facilitate virus survival. Manipulation of the mechanical behavior of virus capsids is leading to a better understanding of viral infection, and to the development of virus-based nanoparticles with improved mechanical properties for nanotechnological applications. In the minute virus of mice (MVM), deleterious mutations around capsid pores involved in infection-related translocation events invariably increased local mechanical stiffness and interfered with pore-associated dynamics. To provide atomic-resolution insights into biologically relevant changes in virus capsid mechanics, we have determined by X-ray crystallography the structural effects of deleterious, mechanically stiffening mutations around the capsid pores. Data show that the cavity-creating N170A mutation at the pore wall does not induce any dramatic structural change around the pores, but instead generates subtle rearrangements that propagate throughout the capsid, resulting in a more compact, less flexible structure. Analysis of the spacefilling L172W mutation revealed the same relationship between increased stiffness and compacted capsid structure. Implications for understanding connections between virus mechanics, structure, dynamics and infectivity, and for engineering modified virus-based nanoparticles, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4101
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • molecular biophysics
  • single-molecule biophysics

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