How does a simple virus self-assemble?

Condensed Matter lunchtime seminar

How does a simple virus self-assemble?

  • Event time: 1:00pm until 2:00pm
  • Event date: 4th July 2017
  • Speaker: (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Physics, Harvard University)
  • Location: Higgs Centre Seminar Room, 4305

Event details

I don't know the answer to the question posed in the title, but I will try to convince you that it's an interesting problem. Many simple RNA viruses, which consist of proteins that form a highly-ordered protective shell (called a capsid) around the viral RNA, are self-assembled structures: infectious viruses can be spontaneously formed simply by mixing the RNA and the capsid proteins in a buffer, in the absence of any host factors. To understand how this self-assembly process happens, we do experiments on a much larger, model system: attractive colloidal particles on the surface of a sphere. On the curved droplet surface, the particles form branched networks of slender domains, a consequence of an elastic instability. These results show that Gaussian curvature can fundamentally alter the growth and shape of ordered domains, which suggests that the viral assembly pathway may be anything but trivial. I will conclude by showing new optical experiments that attempt to resolve the kinetics of assembly of a single viral capsid.

This is a weekly series of informal talks given primarily by members of the soft condensed matter and statistical mechanics groups, but is also open to members of other groups and external visitors. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and learning of various topics at a level suitable to the broad background of the group. Everyone is welcome to attend..

Find out more about Condensed Matter lunchtime seminars.