Building the machines: scaffolding protein functions during bacteriophage morphogenesis

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2012;726:325-50. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-0980-9_14.


For a machine to function, it must first be assembled. The morphogenesis of the simplest icosahedral virus would require only 60 copies of a single capsid protein to coalesce. If the capsid protein's structure could be entirely dedicated to this endeavor, the morphogenetic mechanism would be relatively uncomplicated. However, capsid proteins have had to evolve other functions, such as receptor recognition, immune system evasion, and the incorporation of other structure proteins, which can detract from efficient assembly. Moreover, evolution has mandated that viruses obtain additional proteins that allow them to adapt to their hosts or to more effectively compete in their respective niches. Consequently, genomes have increased in size, which has required capsids to do likewise. This, in turn, has lead to more complex icosahedral geometries. These challenges have driven the evolution of scaffolding proteins, which mediate, catalyze, and promote proper virus assembly. The mechanisms by which these proteins perform their functions are discussed in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Bacteriophages / ultrastructure*
  • Capsid / metabolism
  • Capsid / ultrastructure
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry
  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Viral Structural Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Structural Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Assembly*


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Viral Structural Proteins