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Hepatitis B Virus Capsid Completion Occurs through Error Correction

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journal contribution
posted on 10.11.2017, 16:51 by Corinne A. Lutomski, Nicholas A. Lyktey, Zhongchao Zhao, Elizabeth E. Pierson, Adam Zlotnick, Martin F. Jarrold
Understanding capsid assembly is important because of its role in virus lifecycles and in applications to drug discovery and nanomaterial development. Many virus capsids are icosahedral, and assembly is thought to occur by the sequential addition of capsid protein subunits to a nucleus, with the final step completing the icosahedron. Almost nothing is known about the final (completion) step because the techniques usually used to study capsid assembly lack the resolution. In this work, charge detection mass spectrometry (CDMS) has been used to track the assembly of the T = 4 hepatitis B virus (HBV) capsid in real time. The initial assembly reaction occurs rapidly, on the time scale expected from low resolution measurements. However, CDMS shows that many of the particles generated in this process are defective and overgrown, containing more than the 120 capsid protein dimers needed to form a perfect T = 4 icosahedron. The defective and overgrown capsids self-correct over time to the mass expected for a perfect T = 4 capsid. Thus, completion is a distinct phase in the assembly reaction. Capsid completion does not necessarily occur by inserting the last building block into an incomplete, but otherwise perfect icosahedron. The initial assembly reaction can be predominently imperfect, and completion involves the slow correction of the accumulated errors.