The hepatitis B virus capsid represents a promising therapeutic target. Experiments suggest the capsid must be flexible to function; however, capsid structure and dynamics have not been thoroughly characterized in the absence of icosahedral symmetry constraints. Here, all-atom molecular dynamics simulations are leveraged to investigate the capsid without symmetry bias, enabling study of capsid flexibility and its implications for biological function and cryo-EM resolution limits. Simulation results confirm flexibility and reveal a propensity for asymmetric distortion. The capsid's influence on ionic species suggests a mechanism for modulating the display of cellular signals and implicates the capsid's triangular pores as the location of signal exposure. A theoretical image reconstruction performed using simulated conformations indicates how capsid flexibility may limit the resolution of cryo-EM. Overall, the present work provides functional insight beyond what is accessible to experimental methods and raises important considerations regarding asymmetry in structural studies of icosahedral virus capsids.
Keywords: Cryo-EM resolution; Hepatitis B Virus; Molecular Dynamics Simulation; Single-Particle Image Reconstruction; Virus Capsid; molecular biophysics; none; structural biology.
© 2018, Hadden et al.