Monday, June 8, 2009

Structure of a Viral Protein Coat

The June issue of Popular Science has an image of the 3D molecular structure of the protein capsid for the Penicillium stoloniferum virus (PsV-F). This is the protein outer shell of the virus that acts as a container for the genetic information of the virus. The image doesn't appear to be on the Popular Science web site, so I went looking for the protein structure at the Protein Databank.

The image above comes from the PDB entry for structure 3es5 which is the crystal structure of the dimeric capsid protein (CP). The image above shows the biological unit which consists of 60 copies of the CP dimer in a roughly spherical arrangement. In Atomic Structure Reveals the Unique Capsid Organization of a dsRNA Virus, Pan et. al. used electron cryomicroscopy to compute a 3D reconstruction of the entire 120-mer of the protein capsid. The image in PopSci and the images in the original paper are much cooler than the one above, but this gives you an idea of what it would look like.

If you can't find a copy of Popular Science, you can see the original article at PNAS or Pubmed Central in September, since PNAS makes articles available for free 6 months after print publication.

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