Viral capsids: Mechanical characteristics, genome packaging and delivery mechanisms

W. H. Roos, I. L. Ivanovska, A. Evilevitch, G. J.L. Wuite

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The main functions of viral capsids are to protect, transport and deliver their genome. The mechanical properties of capsids are supposed to be adapted to these tasks. Bacteriophage capsids also need to withstand the high pressures the DNA is exerting onto it as a result of the DNA packaging and its consequent confinement within the capsid. It is proposed that this pressure helps driving the genome into the host, but other mechanisms also seem to play an important role in ejection. DNA packaging and ejection strategies are obviously dependent on the mechanical properties of the capsid. This review focuses on the mechanical properties of viral capsids in general and the elucidation of the biophysical aspects of genome packaging mechanisms and genome delivery processes of double-stranded DNA bacteriophages in particular.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1484-1497
Number of pages14
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Biophysics
  • Capsid mechanics
  • Genome delivery
  • Genome packaging
  • Optical tweezers
  • Osmotic pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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