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Cargo Release from Nonenveloped Viruses and Virus-like Nanoparticles: Capsid Rupture or Pore Formation

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journal contribution
posted on 09.12.2021, 16:08 by Lukáš Sukeník, Liya Mukhamedova, Michaela Procházková, Karel Škubník, Pavel Plevka, Robert Vácha
Virus-like nanoparticles are protein shells similar to wild-type viruses, and both aim to deliver their content into a cell. Unfortunately, the release mechanism of their cargo/genome remains elusive. Pores on the symmetry axes were proposed to enable the slow release of the viral genome. In contrast, cryo-EM images showed that capsids of nonenveloped RNA viruses can crack open and rapidly release the genome. We combined in vitro cryo-EM observations of the genome release of three viruses with coarse-grained simulations of generic virus-like nanoparticles to investigate the cargo/genome release pathways. Simulations provided details on both slow and rapid release pathways, including the success rates of individual releases. Moreover, the simulated structures from the rapid release pathway were in agreement with the experiment. Slow release occurred when interactions between capsid subunits were long-ranged, and the cargo/genome was noncompact. In contrast, rapid release was preferred when the interaction range was short and/or the cargo/genome was compact. These findings indicate a design strategy of virus-like nanoparticles for drug delivery.