The dissassembly of viral capsids as a case study for the stability of large complexes made of repeated building blocks.
Paolo Cermelli, University of Torino

Viral capsids are extremely resistant protein complexes kept together by relatively weak interactions between the protein building blocks (even though interaction with nucleic acid is important in many cases). Many viral capsids disassemble when the chemical environment changes, for instance in order to release the genome inside the cell. In this work we use a simplified mathematical model of the capsid to show how the cooperative behavior of the weak bonds can stabilize the structure, and how local fluctuactions of the bond strength can destabilize it by triggering a cascade of detaching events. We use the principle of large deviations for SDEs to explore the disassembly pathway and the stability threshold.