Electrostatic theory of viral self-assembly

Tao Hu, Rui Zhang, B. I. Shklovskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Viruses self-assemble from identical capsid proteins and their genome consisting, for example, of a long single stranded (ss) RNA. For a big class of T=3 viruses, capsid proteins have long positive N-terminal tails. We explore the role played by the Coulomb interaction between the brush of positive N-terminal tails rooted at the inner surface of the capsid and the negative ss RNA molecule. We show that viruses are most stable when the total contour length of ss RNA is close to the total length of the tails. For such a structure the absolute value of the total RNA charge is approximately twice as large as the charge of the capsid. This conclusion agrees with structural data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3059-3064
Number of pages6
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Issue number12
StatePublished - May 1 2008


  • Capsid protein
  • Coulomb interaction
  • Single stranded RNA
  • Virus self-assembly


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