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    HIV capsid proteins (CAs) may self-assemble into a variety of shapes under in vivo and in vitro conditions. Here, we employed simulations based on a residue-level coarse-grained (CG) model with full conformational flexibility to investigate hexagonal lattices, which are the underlying structural pattern for CA aggregations. Facilitated by enhanced sampling simulations to rigorously calculate CA dimerization and polymerization affinities, we calibrated our model to reproduce the experimentally measured affinities. Using the calibrated model, we performed unbiased simulations on several large systems consisting of 1512 CA subunits, allowing reversible binding and unbinding of the CAs in a thermodynamically consistent manner. In one simulation, a preassembled hexagonal CA sheet developed spontaneous curvatures reminiscent of those observed in experiments, and the edges of the sheet exhibited local curvatures larger than those of the interior. In other simulations starting with randomly distributed CAs at different concentrations, existing CA assemblies grew by binding free capsomeres to the edges and by merging with other assemblies. At high CA concentrations, rapid establishment of predominant aggregates was followed by much slower adjustments toward more regular hexagonal lattices, with increasing numbers of intact CA hexamers and pentamers being formed. Our approach of adapting a general CG model to specific systems by using experimental binding data represents a practical and effective strategy for simulating and elucidating intricate protein aggregations.


    Hao Sha, Fangqiang Zhu. Hexagonal Lattices of HIV Capsid Proteins Explored by Simulations Based on a Thermodynamically Consistent Model. The journal of physical chemistry. B. 2024 Feb 01;128(4):960-972

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    PMID: 38251836

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