Assembling a Virus in the Lab

Seminar series
Physical Chemistry Seminar
Wed, May 28 12:00pm
2033 Young Hall
Speaker Rees F. Garmann
University of California, Los Angeles
Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Abstract: The architecture of many viruses is beautifully simple. For small plant viruses, the virion often consists of only two structural elements: the RNA carrying the genetic information, and the capsid protein (CP), many copies of which form an icosahedrally-symmetric protective shell (the capsid) around the genetic cargo. Remarkably, many of these viruses are capable of spontaneous self-assembly, a process that is made possible by a delicate balance of attractive and repulsive forces that has evolved between the structural units. We study the self-assembly of one such virus, Cowpea Chlorotic Mottle Virus (CCMV). We have systematically investigated how the assembly process is affected by: (1) the relative strength of the interactions between the structural units, (2) the relative stoichiometry of the structural units, and (3) the relative size of the structural units. Using experimental techniques that include native gel electrophoresis, velocity sedimentation, and electron microscopy, we have identified some key requirements for the optimal assembly of CCMV. Additionally, we have begun exploring the possibility of using self-assembled CCMV capsids as vectors for gene delivery. These topics will be discussed.