Structural and dynamic asymmetry in icosahedrally symmetric virus capsids

Curr Opin Virol. 2020 Dec:45:8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2020.06.002. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


A common characteristic of virus capsids is icosahedral symmetry, yet these highly symmetric structures can display asymmetric features within their virions and undergo asymmetric dynamics. The fields of structural and computational biology have entered a new realm in the investigation of virus infection mechanisms, with the ability to observe symmetry-breaking features. This review will cover important studies on icosahedral virus structure and dynamics, covering both symmetric and asymmetric conformational changes. However, the main emphasis of the review will be towards recent studies employing cryo-electron microscopy or molecular dynamics simulations, which can uncover asymmetric aspects of these systems relevant to understanding viral physical-chemical properties and their biological impact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Capsid / chemistry*
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry*
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Virion / chemistry
  • Virion / physiology*


  • Capsid Proteins