The structure and physical properties of a packaged bacteriophage particle

Kush Coshic, Christopher Maffeo, David Winogradoff, Aleksei Aksimentiev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A string of nucleotides confined within a protein capsid contains all the instructions necessary to make a functional virus particle, a virion. Although the structure of the protein capsid is known for many virus species1,2, the three-dimensional organization of viral genomes has mostly eluded experimental probes3,4. Here we report all-atom structural models of an HK97 virion5, including its entire 39,732 base pair genome, obtained through multiresolution simulations. Mimicking the action of a packaging motor6, the genome was gradually loaded into the capsid. The structure of the packaged capsid was then refined through simulations of increasing resolution, which produced a 26 million atom model of the complete virion, including water and ions confined within the capsid. DNA packaging occurs through a loop extrusion mechanism7 that produces globally different configurations of the packaged genome and gives each viral particle individual traits. Multiple microsecond-long all-atom simulations characterized the effect of the packaged genome on capsid structure, internal pressure, electrostatics and diffusion of water, ions and DNA, and revealed the structural imprints of the capsid onto the genome. Our approach can be generalized to obtain complete all-atom structural models of other virus species, thereby potentially revealing new drug targets at the genome–capsid interface.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-914
Number of pages10
Issue number8005
Early online dateMar 6 2024
StatePublished - Mar 28 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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