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Significance of electrostatic interactions for stability and assembly of viruses

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Member of our department Prof. R. Podgornik, with his collaborators A. Lošdorfer Božič of the "J. Stefan" Institute and A. Šiber of the Institute of physics in Zagreb, published a paper Energies and pressures in viruses: contribution of nonspecific electrostatic interactions in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics of the Royal Society of Chemistry. It featured as a »cover article« and a figure from the paper appeared on the cover of the journal.  

Viruses are extremely charged macromolecular aggregates and often carry several tens of thousands of charges. We thus expect that the electrostatic interactions either within the viral capsid, between the capsomeres and the genome, or between the capsdis in the bathing solution are very strong. The detailed nature of these electrostatic interactions depends on the geometry of the capsid, distribution of charges on the capsid and the valency of the counterions or added salt ions. The most important consequence of electrostatic interactions in the virion is the stabilization or destabilization of the capsid, which is the first step in the process of virus self-assembly and dis-assembly.