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Title: Relaxational dynamics of the T -number conversion of virus capsids

We extend a recently proposed kinetic theory of virus capsid assembly based on Model A kinetics and study the dynamics of the interconversion of virus capsids of different sizes triggered by a quench, that is, by sudden changes in the solution conditions. The work is inspired by in vitro experiments on functionalized coat proteins of the plant virus cowpea chlorotic mottle virus, which undergo a reversible transition between two different shell sizes (T = 1 and T = 3) upon changing the acidity and salinity of the solution. We find that the relaxation dynamics are governed by two time scales that, in almost all cases, can be identified as two distinct processes. Initially, the monomers and one of the two types of capsids respond to the quench. Subsequently, the monomer concentration remains essentially constant, and the conversion between the two capsid species completes. In the intermediate stages, a long-lived metastable steady state may present itself, where the thermodynamically less stable species predominate. We conclude that a Model A based relaxational model can reasonably describe the early and intermediate stages of the conversion experiments. However, it fails to provide a good representation of the time evolution of the state of assembly of the coat proteins in the very late stages of equilibration when one of the two species disappears from the solution. It appears that explicitly incorporating the nucleation barriers to assembly and disassembly is crucial for an accurate description of the experimental findings, at least under conditions where these barriers are sufficiently large.

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Publisher / Repository:
American Chemical Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Journal of Chemical Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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