Many viruses self-assemble from a large number of identical capsid proteins with long flexible N-terminal tails and single-stranded (ss) RNA. We study the role of the strong Coulomb interaction of positive N-terminal tails with ssRNA in the kinetics of in vitro virus self-assembly. Capsid proteins stick to the unassembled chain of ssRNA (which we call an “antenna”) and slide on it toward the assembly site. We show that at excess of capsid proteins such one-dimensional diffusion accelerates self-assembly more than ten times. On the other hand at excess of ssRNA, the antenna slows self-assembly down. Several experiments are proposed to verify the role of the ssRNA antenna.
- Received 5 December 2006
©2007 American Physical Society