Assembly of virus capsids and surface proteins must be regulated to ensure that the resulting complex is an infectious virion. In this review, we examine assembly of virus capsids, focusing on hepatitis B virus and bacteriophage MS2, and formation of glycoproteins in the alphaviruses. These systems are structurally and biochemically well-characterized and are simplest-case paradigms of self-assembly. Published data suggest that capsid and glycoprotein assembly is subject to allosteric regulation, that is regulation at the level of conformational change. The hypothesis that allostery is a common theme in viruses suggests that deregulation of capsid and glycoprotein assembly by small molecule effectors will be an attractive antiviral strategy, as has been demonstrated with hepatitis B virus.
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