Orbits of crystallographic embedding of non-crystallographic groups and applications to virology

Reidun Twarock, Motiejus Valiunas, Emilio Zappa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The architecture of infinite structures with non-crystallographic symmetries can be modelled via aperiodic tilings, but a systematic construction method for finite structures with non-crystallographic symmetry at different radial levels is still lacking. This paper presents a group theoretical method for the construction of finite nested point sets with non-crystallographic symmetry. Akin to the construction of quasicrystals, a non-crystallographic group G is embedded into the point group of a higher-dimensional lattice and the chains of all G-containing subgroups are constructed. The orbits of lattice points under such subgroups are determined, and it is shown that their projection into a lower-dimensional G-invariant subspace consists of nested point sets with G-symmetry at each radial level. The number of different radial levels is bounded by the index of G in the subgroup of . In the case of icosahedral symmetry, all subgroup chains are determined explicitly and it is illustrated that these point sets in projection provide blueprints that approximate the organization of simple viral capsids, encoding information on the structural organization of capsid proteins and the genomic material collectively, based on two case studies. Contrary to the affine extensions previously introduced, these orbits endow virus architecture with an underlying finite group structure, which lends itself better to the modelling of dynamic properties than its infinite-dimensional counterpart.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-582
Number of pages14
JournalActa crystallographica. Section A, Foundations and advances
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

© International Union of Crystallography. 2015. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • computational group theory
  • icosahedral viruses
  • non-crystallographic symmetry
  • orbits

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