Principles of virus structural organization

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2012;726:17-47. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-0980-9_3.


Viruses, the molecular nanomachines infecting hosts ranging from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, come in different sizes, shapes, and symmetries. Questions such as what principles govern their structural organization, what factors guide their assembly, how these viruses integrate multifarious functions into one unique structure have enamored researchers for years. In the last five decades, following Caspar and Klug's elegant conceptualization of how viruses are constructed, high-resolution structural studies using X-ray crystallography and more recently cryo-EM techniques have provided a wealth of information on structures of a variety of viruses. These studies have significantly -furthered our understanding of the principles that underlie structural organization in viruses. Such an understanding has practical impact in providing a rational basis for the design and development of antiviral strategies. In this chapter, we review principles underlying capsid formation in a variety of viruses, emphasizing the recent developments along with some historical perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsid / classification
  • Capsid / ultrastructure
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods
  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Viruses / ultrastructure*


  • Capsid Proteins