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The hepatitis B virus (HBV) capsid is an attractive drug target, relevant to combating viral hepatitis as a major public health concern. Among small molecules known to interfere with capsid assembly, the phenylpropenamides, including AT130, represent an important antiviral paradigm based on disrupting the timing of genome packaging. Here, all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of an intact AT130-bound HBV capsid reveal that the compound increases spike flexibility and improves recovery of helical secondary structure in the spike tips. Regions of the capsid-incorporated dimer that undergo correlated motion correspond to established sub-domains that pivot around the central chassis. AT130 alters patterns of correlated motion and other essential dynamics. A new conformational state of the dimer is identified, which can lead to dramatic opening of the intradimer interface and disruption of communication within the spike tip. A novel salt bridge is also discovered, which can mediate contact between the spike tip and fulcrum even in closed conformations, revealing a mechanism of direct communication across these sub-domains. Altogether, results describe a dynamical connection between the intra- and interdimer interfaces and enable mapping of allostery traversing the entire core protein dimer.more » « less
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) core protein is a model system for studying assembly and disassembly of icosahedral structures. Controlling disassembly will allow re‐engineering the 120 subunit HBV capsid, making it a molecular breadboard. We examined removal of subunits from partially crosslinked capsids to form stable incomplete particles. To characterize incomplete capsids, we used two single molecule techniques, resistive‐pulse sensing and charge detection mass spectrometry. We expected to find a binomial distribution of capsid fragments. Instead, we found a preponderance of 3 MDa complexes (90 subunits) and no fragments smaller than 3 MDa. We also found 90‐mers in the disassembly of uncrosslinked HBV capsids. 90‐mers seem to be a common pause point in disassembly reactions. Partly explaining this result, graph theory simulations have showed a threshold for capsid stability between 80 and 90 subunits. To test a molecular breadboard concept, we showed that missing subunits could be refilled resulting in chimeric, 120 subunit particles. This result may be a means of assembling unique capsids with functional decorations.
Nuclear import of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) nucleocapsid is essential for replication that occurs in the nucleus. The ~360-angstrom HBV capsid translocates to the nuclear pore complex (NPC) as an intact particle, hijacking human importins in a reaction stimulated by host kinases. This paper describes the mechanisms of HBV capsid recognition by importins. We found that importin α1 binds a nuclear localization signal (NLS) at the far end of the HBV coat protein Cp183 carboxyl-terminal domain (CTD). This NLS is exposed to the capsid surface through a pore at the icosahedral quasi-sixfold vertex. Phosphorylation at serine-155, serine-162, and serine-170 promotes CTD compaction but does not affect the affinity for importin α1. The binding of 30 importin α1/β1 augments HBV capsid diameter to ~620 angstroms, close to the maximum size trafficable through the NPC. We propose that phosphorylation favors CTD externalization and prompts its compaction at the capsid surface, exposing the NLS to importins.more » « less
Many viruses undergo transient conformational change to surveil their environments for receptors and host factors. In Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, after the virus enters the cell, it is transported to the nucleus by interaction of the HBV capsid with an importin α/β complex. The interaction between virus and importins is mediated by nuclear localization signals on the capsid protein’s C-terminal domain (CTD). However, CTDs are located inside the capsid. In this study, we asked where does a CTD exit the capsid, are all quasi-equivalent CTDs created equal, and does the capsid structure deform to facilitate CTD egress from the capsid? Here, we used Impβ as a tool to trap transiently exposed CTDs and examined this complex by cryo-electron microscopy. We examined an asymmetric reconstruction of a T = 4 icosahedral capsid and a focused reconstruction of a quasi-6-fold vertex (3.8 and 4.0 Å resolution, respectively). Both approaches showed that a subset of CTDs extended through a pore in the center of the quasi-6-fold complex. CTD egress was accompanied by enlargement of the pore and subtle changes in quaternary and tertiary structure of the quasi-6-fold. When compared to molecular dynamics simulations, structural changes were within the normal range of capsid flexibility. Although pore diameter was enlarged in the Impβ-bound reconstruction, simulations indicate that CTD egress does not exclusively depend on enlarged pores. In summary, we find that HBV surveillance of its environment by transient exposure of its CTD requires only modest conformational change of the capsid.more » « less
The promise of self-assembly to enable the bottom-up formation of materials with prescribed architectures and functions has driven intensive efforts to uncover rational design principles for maximizing the yield of a target structure. Yet, despite many successful examples of self-assembly, ensuring kinetic accessibility of the target structure remains an unsolved problem in many systems. In particular, long-lived kinetic traps can result in assembly times that vastly exceed experimentally accessible timescales. One proposed solution is to design non-equilibrium assembly protocols in which system parameters change over time to avoid such kinetic traps. Here, we develop a framework to combine Markov state model (MSM) analysis with optimal control theory to compute a time-dependent protocol that maximizes the yield of the target structure at a finite time. We present an adjoint-based gradient descent method that, in conjunction with MSMs for a system as a function of its control parameters, enables efficiently optimizing the assembly protocol. We also describe an interpolation approach to significantly reduce the number of simulations required to construct the MSMs. We demonstrate our approach with two examples; a simple semi-analytic model for the folding of a polymer of colloidal particles, and a more complex model for capsid assembly. Our results show that optimizing time-dependent protocols can achieve significant improvements in the yields of selected structures, including equilibrium free energy minima, long-lived metastable structures, and transient states.