Elucidating the Thermodynamic Driving Forces of Polyanion-Templated Virus-like Particle Assembly

Stan J. Maassen, Jurriaan Huskens, Jeroen J.L.M. Cornelissen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
119 Downloads (Pure)


A virus in its most simple form is comprised of a protein capsid that surrounds and protects the viral genome. The self-assembly of such structures, however, is a highly complex, multiprotein, multiinteraction process and has been a topic of study for a number of years. This self-assembly process is driven by the (mainly electrostatic) interaction between the capsid proteins (CPs) and the genome as well as by the protein-protein interactions, which primarily rely on hydrophobic interactions. Insight in the thermodynamics that is involved in virus and virus-like particle (VLP) formation is crucial in the detailed understanding of this complex assembly process. Therefore, we studied the assembly of CPs of the cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) templated by polyanionic species (cargo), that is, single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), and polystyrene sulfonate (PSS) using isothermal titration calorimetry. By separating the electrostatic CP-cargo interaction from the full assembly interaction, we conclude that CP-CP interactions cause an enthalpy change of -3 to -4 kcal mol-1 CP. Furthermore, we quantify that upon reducing the CP-CP interaction, in the case of CCMV by increasing the pH to 7, the CP-cargo starts to dominate VLP formation. This is highlighted by the three times higher affinity between CP and PSS compared to CP and ssDNA, resulting in the disassembly of CCMV at neutral pH in the presence of PSS to yield PSS-filled VLPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9733-9741
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of physical chemistry B
Issue number46
Early online date29 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019


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