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  1. This review accompanies the Special Issue on the subject of physical virology, which features work presented at the recent Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on this topic [...]

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2025
  2. We propose and investigate an extension of the Caspar–Klug symmetry principles for viral capsid assembly to the programmable assembly of size-controlled triply periodic polyhedra, discrete variants of the Primitive, Diamond, and Gyroid cubic minimal surfaces. Inspired by a recent class of programmable DNA origami colloids, we demonstrate that the economy of design in these crystalline assemblies—in terms of the growth of the number of distinct particle species required with the increased size-scale (e.g., periodicity)—is comparable to viral shells. We further test the role of geometric specificity in these assemblies via dynamical assembly simulations, which show that conditions for simultaneously efficient and high-fidelity assembly require an intermediate degree of flexibility of local angles and lengths in programmed assembly. Off-target misassembly occurs via incorporation of a variant of disclination defects, generalized to the case of hyperbolic crystals. The possibility of these topological defects is a direct consequence of the very same symmetry principles that underlie the economical design, exposing a basic tradeoff between design economy and fidelity of programmable, size controlled assembly.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 30, 2025
  3. Self-assembly of complex and functional materials remains a grand challenge in soft material science. Efficient assembly depends on a delicate balance between thermodynamic and kinetic effects, requiring fine-tuning affinities and concentrations of subunits. By contrast, we introduce an assembly paradigm that allows large error-tolerance in the subunit affinity and helps avoid kinetic traps. Our combined experimental and computational approach uses a model system of triangular subunits programmed to assemble intoT= 3 icosahedral capsids comprising 60 units. The experimental platform uses DNA origami to create monodisperse colloids whose three-dimensional geometry is controlled to nanometer precision, with two distinct bonds whose affinities are controlled tokBTprecision, quantified in situ by static light scattering. The computational model uses a coarse-grained representation of subunits, short-ranged potentials, and Langevin dynamics. Experimental observations and modeling reveal that when the bond affinities are unequal, two distincthierarchicalassembly pathways occur, in which the subunits first form dimers in one case and pentamers in another. These hierarchical pathways produce complete capsids faster and are more robust against affinity variation than egalitarian pathways, in which all binding sites have equal strengths. This finding suggests that hierarchical assembly may be a general engineering principle for optimizing self-assembly of complex target structures.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 13, 2025
  4. A machine learning model for reliable director fields calculation from raw experimental images of active nematics. The model is accurate, robust to noise and generalizable, enhancing analysis such as the detection and tracking of topological defects.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 21, 2025
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    We use coarse-grained molecular-dynamics simulations to study the motility of a 2D vesicle containing self-propelled rods, as a function of the vesicle bending rigidity and the number density, length, and activity of the enclosed rods. Above a threshold value of the rod length, distinct dynamical regimes emerge, including a dramatic enhancement of vesicle motility characterized by a highly persistent random walk. These regimes are determined by clustering of the rods within the vesicle; the maximum motility state arises when there is one long-lived polar cluster. We develop a scaling theory that predicts the dynamical regimes as a function of control parameters, and shows that feedback between activity and passive membrane forces govern the rod organization. These findings yield design principles for building self-propelled superstructures using independent active agents under deformable confinement.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  7. Zhou, Huan-Xiang (Ed.)

    Liquid condensate droplets with distinct compositions of proteins and nucleic acids are widespread in biological cells. While it is known that such droplets, or compartments, can regulate irreversible protein aggregation, their effect on reversible self-assembly remains largely unexplored. In this article, we use kinetic theory and solution thermodynamics to investigate the effect of liquid-liquid phase separation on the reversible self-assembly of structures with well-defined sizes and architectures. We find that, when assembling subunits preferentially partition into liquid compartments, robustness against kinetic traps and maximum achievable assembly rates can be significantly increased. In particular, both the range of solution conditions leading to productive assembly and the corresponding assembly rates can increase by orders of magnitude. We analyze the rate equation predictions using simple scaling estimates to identify effects of liquid-liquid phase separation as a function of relevant control parameters. These results may elucidate self-assembly processes that underlie normal cellular functions or pathogenesis, and suggest strategies for designing efficient bottom-up assembly for nanomaterials applications.

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  8. 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.

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  9. Confinement can be used to systematically tame turbulent dynamics occurring in active fluids. Although periodic channels are the simplest geometries to study confinement numerically, the corresponding experimental realizations require closed racetracks. Here, we computationally study 2D active nematics confined to such a geometry—an annulus. By systematically varying the annulus inner radius and channel width, we bridge the behaviors observed in the previously studied asymptotic limits of the annulus geometry: a disk and an infinite channel. We identify new steady-state behaviors, which reveal the influence of boundary curvature and its interplay with confinement. We also show that, below a threshold inner radius, the dynamics are insensitive to the presence of the inner hole. We explain this insensitivity through a simple scaling analysis. Our work sheds further light on design principles for using confinement to control the dynamics of active nematics. 
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