A quantitative model for virus uncoating predicts influenza A infectivity

Cell Rep. 2023 Dec 26;42(12):113558. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113558. Epub 2023 Dec 14.


For virus infection of new host cells, the disassembly of the protective outer protein shell (capsid) is a critical step, but the mechanisms and host-virus interactions underlying the dynamic, active, and regulated uncoating process are largely unknown. Here, we develop an experimentally supported, multiscale kinetics model that elucidates mechanisms of influenza A virus (IAV) uncoating in cells. Biophysical modeling demonstrates that interactions between capsid M1 proteins, host histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6), and molecular motors can physically break the capsid in a tug-of-war mechanism. Biochemical analysis and biochemical-biophysical modeling identify unanchored ubiquitin chains as essential and allow robust prediction of uncoating efficiency in cells. Remarkably, the different infectivity of two clinical strains can be ascribed to a single amino acid variation in M1 that affects binding to HDAC6. By identifying crucial modules of viral infection kinetics, the mechanisms and models presented here could help formulate novel strategies for broad-range antiviral treatment.

Keywords: CP: Microbiology; HDAC6; influenza; mathematical model; tug of war; uncoating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus* / metabolism
  • Influenza, Human*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Virus Replication
  • Virus Uncoating


  • Ubiquitin
  • Capsid Proteins