A new series of polyhedra as blueprints for viral capsids in the family of Papovaviridae

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Publication details

JournalJ. Theor. Biol.
DatePublished - 2008
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)808-816
Original languageUndefined/Unknown


In a seminal paper Caspar and Klug derived a family of surface lattices as blueprints for the structural organisation of viral capsids. In particular, they encode the locations of the proteins in the protein shells that encapsulate, and hence provide protection for, the viral genome. Despite its huge success and numerous applications in virology, experimental results have provided evidence for the fact that the theory is too restrictive to describe all known viruses . Especially, the family of Papovaviridae, which contains cancer-causing viruses, falls out of the scope of this theory. We have shown that a member of the family of Papovaviridae can be described via an icosahedrally symmetric tiling. We show here that all viruses in this family can be described by tilings with vertices corresponding to subsets of a quasi-lattice that is constructed based on an affine extended Coxeter group, and we use this methodology to derive their coordinates explicitly. Since the particles appear as different subsets of the same quasi-lattice, their relative sizes are predicted by this approach, and there hence exists only one scaling factor that relates the sizes of all particles collectively to their biological counterparts. It is the Frst mathematical result that provides a common organisational principle for different types of viral particles in the family of Papovaviridae, and paves the way for modelling Papovaviridae polymorphism.

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