Structural puzzles in virology solved with an overarching icosahedral design principle

Reidun Twarock, Antoni Luque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Viruses have evolved protein containers with a wide spectrum of icosahedral architectures to protect their genetic material. The geometric constraints defining these container designs, and their implications for viral evolution, are open problems in virology. The principle of quasi-equivalence is currently used to predict virus architecture, but improved imaging techniques have revealed increasing numbers of viral outliers. We show that this theory is a special case of an overarching design principle for icosahedral, as well as octahedral, architectures that can be formulated in terms of the Archimedean lattices and their duals. These surface structures encompass different blueprints for capsids with same numbers of structural proteins, as well as for capsid architectures formed from a combination of minor and major capsid proteins, and are conserved within viral lineages. They also apply to other icosahedral structures in nature, and offer alternative designs for man-made materials and nanocontainers in bionanotechnology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4414-4422
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2019

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© The Author(s) 2019


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